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Patriots' defense crushes Cassel, Vikings for win

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The New England Patriots avoided an 0-2 start with a convincing 30-7 over the Vikings in Minnesota. Here were our takeaways:

1. The Patriots barely needed Tom Brady. They won this game because of defense, special teams and a running game that helped to kill the clock in the second half. Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower took turns making huge plays for New England. (Jones' came on a terrific field goal block and return for a touchdown.) New England now has more playmakers on defense than offense. Really.

2. Vikings fans started chanting "We want Teddy!" in the second quarter. Mr. Bridgewater might only be a loss or two away from starting. Matt Cassel was picked off four times in the game. While the mistakes weren't all Cassel's fault, he struggled when not checking the ball down. Cassel isn't built to carry an offense, and that's what he'll have to do as long as Adrian Peterson is out of the lineup. For the time being, Cassel is the starter as coach Mike Zimmer gave him a vote of confidence for next Sunday. 

3. Minnesota's running game was just as vanilla as you'd expect without Peterson. If you don't count Cassel's runs, the Vikings had 38 yards on 16 carries. Matt Asiata was generic and Jerick McKinnon was barely involved.

4. Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan surprisingly did a nice job on Cordarrelle Patterson all day. Darrelle Revis mostly checked Greg Jennings, who had four yards. New England's pass rush wasn't great, but they are getting surprising production out of Dont'a Hightower, who is now playing outside at a rush linebacker position.

5. Rob Gronkowski still doesn't look like himself. He had four catches for 32 yards, but his snaps were limited again. New England is simply not a big-play offense right now. Despite the convincing win, they only racked up 292 yards and struggled in short-yardage situations.

6. For those fantasy owners waiting on a Shane Vereen breakout: Stevan Ridley had 25 carries, while Vereen had just seven touches.

The latest "Around The NFL Podcast" recaps the Steelers-Ravens game and previews the other 15 games in Week 2.

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