There's not much to regret for the New England Patriots over the last decade-plus. They've been by most accounts the NFL's most successful franchise during that time.
Even if there is a legitimate second guess or two, well, they'd hardly admit to one. Playing the Minnesota Vikings, though, at least provides a scenario to ponder.
No, the Patriots didn't make a mistake by trading Matt Cassel, who will start Sunday for the Vikings against good friend and former mentor Tom Brady for the first time. Brady has fared just fine since Cassel was dealt to Kansas City in 2009.
The player the Patriots, and a lot of teams in the league for that matter, could use is Cordarrelle Patterson. Their first-round draft pick was on the clock last year when the Vikings, enamored of the skills of the wide receiver and kickoff returner from Tennessee, offered four lower selections to move up to No. 29.
Deal, the Patriots said, and Patterson went to the Vikings.
"We made the decision based on what we felt was best for our team. That's what we always do," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said this week.
Patriots wide receivers remain a developing group without a true star, still trying to establish the kind of dynamically versatile player the Vikings are grooming Patterson into. He turned a toss sweep into a 67-yard touchdown last week in the opener at St. Louis, a 34-6 victory, and has scored in six straight games.
Patterson said this week he uses the Patriots' decision to pass on him as a little extra motivation.
"It's always good to have that chip on your shoulder, just to go out there and just try to execute (against) the teams that didn't even pick you when they said they wanted you," Patterson said. "And you've got to go out and do your thing."
Here are some key nuggets to know about the Patriots-Vikings game Sunday:
DEFENDING BRADY: Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has helped slow Brady before, including last year as the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati. The Bengals won 13-6, sacking Brady four times, forcing two turnovers and allowing only 248 total yards.
In 2010, the result wasn't as impressive. The Patriots beat the Bengals 38-24, and though two scores came from the defense and special teams, they went without allowing a sack or making a turnover, and Brady threw for three touchdowns.
But in 2003, one of the five seasons Belichick and Brady took the Patriots to the Super Bowl, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for Dallas. Despite losing 12-0, the Cowboys had two sacks, one turnover and allowed just 248 total yards that day.
In three games against Zimmer, Brady has a total of three touchdown passes.
"He's got a great scheme. I think he obviously coaches those guys very well. He's a very disciplined coach," Brady said.
Brady went 29 for 56 for 249 yards last week in a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins and was sacked four times. Zimmer was not about to acknowledge any less anxiety about strategizing against the nine-time Pro Bowl pick who turned 37 last month.
"I can remember watching him in the pregame last year, and he was just humming the ball," Zimmer said. "I don't know what caused any inaccuracy, if there was any last week. I just know that I've seen this guy really, really good. I always anticipate the best every week."
CASSEL BUILDING: After Cassel helped the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008 when Brady's knee was torn up in the opener, he was traded to the Chiefs with linebacker Mike Vrabel for a second-round draft pick, the 34th overall. That became Patrick Chung, who has returned to start at safety this year for the Patriots after one season away with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chiefs played the Patriots once while Cassel was there, in 2011, but Cassel was injured. So this will be the first time he's truly up against Brady, who he learned from for four years.
NEW HOME: This game starts a two-year stint for the Vikings as an outdoor team again. They'll play at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota's campus until the new venue downtown opens in 2016 on the site of the torn-down Metrodome. The forecast for Sunday is dry with a high in the mid-60s.
STRONG STARTS: The Patriots had a 10-year streak of winning their opener end in Miami. They haven't started 0-2 since 2001, the season that ended with their first of three Super Bowl titles. Over the last four years, the Patriots have had just two two-game losing streaks.
INTRADIVISION DOMINANCE: The Patriots have won 11 straight against the NFC North, the longest current streak in the league by one team against another division. Their last loss was on Oct. 13, 2002, to Green Bay. The last time the Vikings beat them was Sept. 17, 2000, in Belichick's first year.
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