The Vikings improved to 9-2 this season after beating the Patriots in the final game of the NFL Thanksgiving triple header, 33-26.
After being required to score in Week 11, these two 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 the first practice of the night. Then New England tied that score with one of their own as Mac Jones connected with Nelson Agholor for a 34-yard touchdown. From there, those offenses continued to level each other throughout the first half and found themselves tied at 16 at the break.
New England opened the final half with a 75-yard touchdown to go up seven. It didn’t take long for Minnesota to tie the game as Kene Nwangwu fended off a 97 kickoff yards for a touchdown.
It was 26 all at the start of the fourth quarter, and that’s when the Vikings started to pull away. A penalty on New England for hitting the kicker gave Minnesota new life on a third-and-4 punt and they cashed. Two plays after the penalty, Cousins completed a 36-yard pass to Justin Jefferson and then a 15-yard touchdown. to Adam Thielen to take and hold the lead.
Kirk Cousins finished 30 of 37 for 299 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Justin Jefferson was his favorite target and the star 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 touchdowns and no interceptions.
For a more detailed breakdown of this game, check out our takeaways below.
Why the Vikings won
Although there was a narrative around Kirk Cousins in prime time games, the Vikings quarterback was largely good on Thursday. He had a poorly thrown interception, but other than that he was stellar for Minnesota. He was able to match any Patriots score and was able to split the ball among seven different pass catchers. That said, Justin Jefferson was his favorite target and the star continues to carry the offensive. Besides just racking up stats, Jefferson was making a number of clutch catches, including a 36-yard reception that helped set up Thielen’s touchdown in the fourth quarter.
While the defense allowed a number of block plays through the air, you also have to give them credit for cutting the Patriots offense to close out the game. After Minnesota took a 33-26 lead, the defense forced a three-and-out, a turnover on subsequent possession tries, then kept them out of the end zone as the time passed until the end of the settlement.
Why the Patriots 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. Really, the offense relied on Mac Jones chip plays, which he was able to achieve as both of his pass notes were over 30 yards out. When they knocked on the end zone door, however, they could not break through it. In fact, the Patriots had two practices where they got the ball at least on the Vikings 6-yard line and couldn’t score touchdowns on either of them. Yes, there was a questionable touchdown from Hunter Henry that eventually got called up, but the Patriots had several plays inside the 10-yard line and couldn’t find a way through.
Of course, you can’t talk about this loss without mentioning the special teams unit. It was a remarkably poor performance from this unit and their insufficient play directly resulted in 14 points for the Vikings. After taking the lead to start the second half with a 75-yard touchdown, the Patriots’ special teams unit immediately allowed Minnesota to tie the game, allowing a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, they also committed a kicking penalty that would allow the Vikings to score the game-winning touchdown.
It was an all-night home and away game as these clubs fought back to level the game at various points. Going into the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 26 and it looked like New England would force a three-and-out and win the ball back with an opportunity to take the lead. However, rookie Pierre Strong encountered punter Ryan Wright as he attempted to throw the ball, which drew a flag. The five-yard penalty was enough to give the Vikings a first down and keep the practice alive. Three plays later, Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen, which turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Game of the game
Let’s give some props to Kene Nwangwu for taking that 97-yard kickoff home. After New England scored on a 37-yard touchdown from Hunter Henry in the second half, it felt like the momentum was shifting in the direction of the Patriots. Once Nwangwu ran that, however, any positive juice the Patriots got was quickly deflated.
It was Nwangwu’s third career kickoff return for a touchdown.
From there, the Patriots will return to Foxborough and prepare for another game Thursday night as they host the Buffalo Bills for their first meeting of the season. As for the Vikings, they will hang out at US Bank Stadium and prepare for the New York Jets.