This was a contest that the Patriots had to grind out that saw star wide receiver Josh Gordon have a notably smaller role in the passing game as he has had secured all three targets for 58 receiving yards that did include a touchdown. Following the contest, head coach Belichick decided to voice that Gordon's level of involvement was dictated by the defense they had played. (h/t Tyler Sullivan of 247 Sports)
“I think everybody goes out and plays hard,” Bill Belichick said when asked about Gordon's lack of targets postgame. “Again, we don't know where the balls are going to go. We don't know what coverage they're going to be in. They did a great job of mixing up the coverages. Certainly gave us a lot of split-safety looks, changed some of the reads that we had. When they didn't play split-safety coverage, we were able to throw the hitch out there. He broke a tackle on, I don't know, who was it – [Marcus] Sherels? Whoever it was out there. They did a good job of taking away our outside receivers with a lot of split-safety coverage for a while and then when they changed, then we were able to change.”
The Patriots were certainly playing no slouch defensively against the Vikings even with Xavier Rhodes out of the game to due to a hamstring issue. They possess one of the top teams in the NFL on that side of the ball that has been the backbone to their success over the last couple of years.
At the same time, it wasn't as if Gordon wasn't a key part in the win as he did make the most of his targets that included a crucial 24-yard touchdown. What has caught the attention was the number of snaps he was on the field (48 of a possible 74 offensive snaps).
Ultimately, this may simply have been part of the game plan, but if it were to become a trend moving forward than it would be something that draws plenty of more scrutiny.