Vikings stop Patriots, take command of NFC North

MINNEAPOLIS – In a game full of great plays, the Minnesota Vikings defeated the New England Patriots 33-26 on Thanksgiving Day.

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

The Vikings move to 9-2 on the season, while the Patriots fall to 6-5.

Minnesota Vikings

After one of the worst home losses in team history, the Vikings did exactly what they wanted Thursday night: move on.

Their win over the Patriots made the 37-point loss they absorbed four days earlier at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys much easier to bear, and one that called into question whether they could be considered one of the NFL’s best teams.

By beating the Patriots, the Vikings recorded their second win 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 among the top five teams in the NFL.

Just as importantly, the Cowboys’ game, which receiver Justin Jefferson called “embarrassing” and an “all-around disaster,” is better viewed as an aberration than a deep 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 close in on the NFC North title and remain in contention for the NFC’s best player.

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

QB breakdown: Kirk Cousins ​​threw a bad interception in the first quarter, a back-foot throw that sailed wide of receiver KJ Osborne, but he avoided any more big mistakes 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. Most importantly, he expertly led the Vikings to the game-winning touchdown by throwing a perfect 36-yard pass to Jefferson before finding an open Adam Thielen for a 15-yard score.

Key game: Returner Kene Nwangwu returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, his first of the season after returning two scores as a freshman last season. The return answered the Patriots’ touchdown on the previous play to tie the score at 23, an important emotional swing that allowed the Vikings to avoid a potential avalanche. The Patriots were one of the few teams to challenge Nwangwa this season. He entered the game with 19 punt returns all season as most teams kicked deep for touchbacks, but he had five by himself against the Patriots.

Next game: vs. Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

New England Patriots

The Patriots’ struggles in the red zone 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 red zone carry. The Vikings were 3 of 5.

Ball game.

Of course, there’s more to it than that, but until the Patriots can find answers to turn those situations into points, it threatens their hopes of making a postseason push. Quarterback Mac Jones talked about trying to “flip the switch” in the red zone, but it didn’t work out against the Vikings.

A tight third-quarter play that was overturned by referee Alex Kemp on replay — 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.

The biggest hole in the game plan: It’s similar to what happens to most teams that play the Vikings — receiver Justin Jefferson is covered. He crushed the Patriots (9 catches, 139 yards, 1 TD) and showed why he is one of the NFL’s elite pass catchers.

Describe the game in two words: Playoff caliber. Great atmosphere at US Bank Stadium and two teams going head to head.

QB breakdown: Jones had his best game of the season – especially when he was attacking in the field. He was 5 of 5 for 153 yards and two touchdowns on throws of 15 or more yards. In his first seven games this season, he had one total touchdown on throws of 15 or more yards.

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

Under-the-Radar Stats That Matter: The Patriots allowed five first downs via penalties, tied for the most in a game over the past three seasons. It’s their most since Week 11 in 2019 at Philadelphia (also five).

Next game: vs. bills (8:15 p.m. ET, Thursday)

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