Vikings hold off Patriots, take the lead in NFC North

MINNEAPOLIS — In a game full of highlights, the Minnesota Vikings held off the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving night for a 33-26 victory.

Both teams scored early in each half, including a thrilling kickoff return touchdown by the Vikings in response to a Patriots score to start the second half.

The Vikings drop to 9-2 on the season, while the Patriots slip to 6-5.

Minnesota Vikings

Fresh off one of the worst home losses in team history, the Viking did exactly what he wanted to do on Thursday night: move on.

Their victory over the Patriots made it much easier to endure a 37-point loss absorbed four days earlier by the Dallas Cowboys, one that had questioned whether they could be considered one of the best teams in the NFL.

By beating the Patriots, the Vikings recorded their second victory over a team with a winning record in their last three games. If someone told you the Vikings would beat the Patriots and Buffalo Bills in three weeks, what would you say about them? A reasonable argument could be made that, yes, they are in the top five teams in the NFL.

Equally important, a Cowboys play that catcher Justin Jefferson called “embarrassing” and “an all around mess” is best seen as an aberration rather than an insightful look into the Vikings’ future.

The Vikings will now have 10 days to prepare for their next game, at home against the New York Jets, as they move closer to the NFC North title and remain in contention for the NFC top seed.

Describe the game in two words: Very close. The Vikings took the lead three separate times in this game, lost it twice, and overall tied with the Patriots five different times. Games like that rarely happen in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was only the second time in seven seasons that the score was tied separately at least five different times.

QB Breakdown: Kirk Cousins ​​threw a bad interception in the first quarter, a throw off his back foot that went past receiver KJ Osborn, but he avoided any other big errors during this prime time game. He finished with 30 completions, the most against the Patriots this season, on 37 attempts for 299 yards and two scores. More importantly, he expertly guided the Vikings to their game-winning touchdown by throwing a perfect 36-yard pass to Jefferson before finding Adam Thielen open for a 15-yard score.

pivot clearance: Returner Kene Nwangwu returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, his first of the season after returning two for scores as a rookie last season. The returner answered a Patriots touchdown on the previous play and tied the score at 23, an important emotional swing that allowed the Vikings to avoid a potential snowball. The Patriots were one of the few teams to challenge Nwangwu this season. He entered the game with 19 returns all season, as most teams kicked deep for touchbacks, but he only had five against the Patriots.

next match: vs. Jet (1 PM ET, Sunday)

New England Patriots

The Patriots’ red zone struggles on offense came back to haunt them Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

They were 0 for 3 inside the 20-yard line against the NFL’s last ranked red zone defense. The Vikings were 3 out of 5.

ball game.

Sure, there’s more to it than that, but until the Patriots find answers to turn those situations into points, it threatens their hopes of pushing for the postseason. Quarterback Mac Jones had spoken of trying to “turn the tide” in the red zone, but that didn’t materialize against the Vikings.

A close call in the third quarter that was overturned on replay by referee Alex Kemp — when Jones initially appeared to connect with tight end Hunter Henry for a touchdown — was a notable aspect of the team’s lack of red zone production.

Biggest hole in the game plan: It’s similar to what happens to most teams playing against the Vikings, covering catcher Justin Jefferson. He wrecked the Patriots (9 catches, 139 yards, 1 TD) and showed why he is one of the NFL’s elite pass chasers.

Describe the game in two words: Playoff calibre. A great environment at the US Bank Stadium and two teams that faced each other on tiptoe.

QB Breakdown: Jones had his best game of the season, particularly when attacking upfield. He was 5 of 5 for 153 yards and two touchdowns on throws that went over 15 yards. In his first seven games this season, he had a total touchdown over 15 yards.

Promising trend: The short-handed offensive line — with left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Cole Strange, center James Ferentz, right guard Mike Onwenu, and right tackle Yodny Cajuste — provided Jones with the best pass protection he’s had in all season. As a result, Jones looked like a different quarterback.

Under the radar stat that matters: The Patriots have allowed five first downs on penalties, tying the most in a game in the last three seasons. That’s the most since Week 11 of 2019 in Philadelphia (also five).

next match: vs. Bills (8:15 PM ET, Thursday)

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