The Vikings moved to 9-2 on the season after defeating the Patriots in the final game of the NFL Thanksgiving triple header, 33-26.
After being held to field goals in Week 11, both of these offenses wasted no time getting the end zone to start this game. Minnesota needed just eight plays to go 80 yards and score a touchdown on their opening drive of the night. Then, New England matched that score with one of its own as Mac Jones connected with Nelson Agholor for a 34-yard touchdown run. From there, these offenses continued to match throughout the first half and found themselves knotted 16 at the break.
New England opened the last half with a 75-yard touchdown run to go up by seven. It didn’t take long for Minnesota to tie the game as Kene Nwangwu ran back on a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
It was 26 all going into the fourth quarter, and it was at that point that the Vikings began to pull away. A penalty on New England for running into the kicker breathed new life into Minnesota with a third-and-4 punt and they cashed in. Two plays after the penalty, Cousins completed a 36-yard pass to Justin Jefferson and then a 15-yard touchdown run to Adam Thielen to take and maintain the lead.
Kirk Cousins went 30 of 37 for 299 yards with three TDs and an interception. Justin Jefferson was his favorite target and the star wideout had 9 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown,in the process. Meanwhile, Mac Jones was 28 of 39 for a season-high 382 yards with a pair of TDs and no interceptions.
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Because the Vikings won
Although there was a Kirk Cousins narrative in primetime games, the Vikings quarterback was largely good Thursday. He had one interception thrown badly, but outside of that he was outstanding for Minnesota. He was able to match any score the Patriots had and was able to give the ball to seven different passers. That said, Justin Jefferson was his favorite target and the star continues to lead the offense. In addition to simply racking up stats, Jefferson was hitting a variety of clutch catches, including the 36-yard reception that helped set up Thielen’s fourth-quarter touchdown run.
While the defense did allow a number of plays through the air, you also have to give them credit for holding off the Patriots offense to close out the game. After Minnesota took a 33-26 lead, the defense forced a three-and-out, turnover on walks on their next possession, and then kept them out of the end zone as the clock ticked down to the end of regulation.
Because the Patriots have lost
New England’s struggles in the red zone continued Thursday. Going into this game, the Patriots ranked 31st in red zone touchdown percentage and went 0-3 in the red zone against the Vikings. In reality, the offense relied on piece plays by Mac Jones, which he was able to deliver as both of his pass scores came from over 30 yards. When they were banging on the end zone door, however, they couldn’t break it down. In fact, the Patriots had two drives in which they got the ball to at least the Vikings 6-yard line and were unable to score touchdowns on either. Yes, there was a questionable Hunter Henry touchdown that was eventually called back, but the Patriots had more plays inside the 10-yard line and couldn’t find a way to make it through.
Of course, we can’t talk about this defeat without mentioning the special teams unit. This was a noticeably poor performance from that unit, and their underplay directly resulted in 14 points for the Vikings. After taking the lead to start the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive, the Patriots’ special teams unit immediately allowed Minnesota to tie the game, allowing a 97-yard kickoff for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, they also committed a kicker penalty that would have allowed the Vikings to score the game-winning touchdown.
This was an all night back and forth match as these clubs were catching each other up to level the game at various points. Early in the fourth quarter, the score was knotted at 26 and it looked like New England were going to force a three-and-out and get the ball back with an opportunity to take the lead. However, rookie Pierre Strong ran into punter Ryan Wright trying to get the ball away, who drew a flag. The five-yard penalty was enough to give the Vikings a first down and keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen in what turned out to be the go-ahead touchdown.
Let’s give some props to Kene Nwangwu for getting this kickoff 97 yards into the home. After New England scored on a 37-yard Hunter Henry touchdown run to be the second half, it seemed the momentum was shifting in the direction of the Patriots. Once Nwangwu returned it, however, any positive juice the Patriots got was quickly deflated.
This was the third kickoff for a touchdown of Nwangwu’s career.
From here, the Patriots will return to Foxborough and prepare for another Thursday night game as they host the Buffalo Bills for their first game of the season. As for the Vikings, they will be circling US Bank Stadium and preparing for the New York Jets.