Can the Rookie Beat the Master?

Can the Rookie Beat the Master?
Sep 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Mandatory Credit: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s a short week, and the Minnesota Vikings are set to face the New England Patriots on limited rest without their starting left tackle. Coming off the drubbing that was the Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday, there are plenty of things working against Kevin O’Connell’s team. Chief among them may be that he’s a rookie head coach facing one of the best ever. Can he emerge victorious?

This week presents a very important opportunity for the Minnesota Vikings head coach. While Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys utterly dismantled Minnesota last weekend, a greater issue was the lack of in-game adjustments made by Kevin O’Connell. Even after Christian Darrisaw left the game early with a concussion, the offensive playcalling continued to feature deep drops and slow-evolving plays. Kirk Cousins was turned into a human punching bag for it, and there was never a point for the Vikings to recover.

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Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Although the week of practice is short, and Darrisaw will be inactive for this contest, there’s a level of ambiguity removed for the Minnesota head coach this week. He knows the gameplan will feature Blake Brandel at left tackle and that Cousins will need to employ a much more quick-hitting set of playcalls. Matthew Judon is currently the NFL sack leader, and for everything New England can’t do on offense, they make up for on defense.

Bill Belichick has utterly destroyed the Vikings during his career as the Patriots head coach. To be fair, he’s done that to most teams while developing Tom Brady into one of the best quarterbacks the sport has ever seen. The Vikings futility dates back to 2000, with their lone win against him coming just three games into his tenure with New England. However, this isn’t the same Patriots team it has been for much of that time, and there will be an opportunity to emerge victorious.

The narratives going into Thursday night should be less about Belichick and more regarding O’Connell. At this point in his Hall of Fame career, Belichick and his preparation are a known commodity. We saw O’Connell make adjustments following the ugly outcome against the Philadelphia Eagles, but that came on a regular week with a mediocre Detroit Lions team coming to town. This time around, O’Connell is dealing with a massive hole on his offensive line and facing a team constructed to exploit it.

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Oct 30, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports.

Rookie head coach Mike McDaniels beat New England to start the season, and Matt Eberflus defeated him a couple of weeks ago. That said, those outcomes took place because of solid execution and game-planning. The Vikings simply being a better team will not be enough to emerge victorious in a primetime matchup, and we’ll have a front-row seat to see how O’Connell handles adversity for the first time this season.

Maybe the Vikings get a soft matchup on the gridiron, but they certainly will be at a disadvantage when it comes to the sideline. It remains to be seen if that’s something they can overcome.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.