Vikings’ Kirk Cousins connects with Justin Jefferson for early score

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Vikings kick returner Kene Nwangwu returned a kickoff 97 yards Thursday night for a touchdown in the third quarter, allowing the Vikings to tie the back-and-forth game with the New England Patriots 23-23.

Nwangwu returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2021, but had not yet scored in 2022. He is the first player to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the Patriots since 2010, when CJ Spiller returned one for the Buffalo Bills.

Most teams have avoided punting to Nwangwu this season, and he came into play with a total of 19 on the season. His touchdown Thursday night came on his fourth return of the game.

The Vikings also got an early score to open the game. In fact, they still have the best opening attack in football.

Kirk Cousins’ 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Jefferson was their seventh touchdown on the opening drive of a game this season. That’s two more than all of the NFL’s other 31 teams, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information.

Jefferson caught two passes on the run four days after making a total of three passes in the Vikings’ 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He is approaching the NFL record for most yards in the first three seasons of his career, a record currently held by former Vikings receiver Randy Moss (4,163).

After his touchdown catch, Jefferson’s total receptions totaled 4,122 yards.

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