Sports

Vikings vs. Patriots score, takeaways: Justin Jefferson shines on Thanksgiving as Minnesota improves to 9-2

The Vikings moved to 9-2 this season after knocking out the Patriots in the final game of the NFL’s Thanksgiving triple-header, 33-26.

After hanging on for field goals in Week 11, both offenses wasted no time reaching the end zone to begin this game. Minnesota needed just eight plays to go 80 yards to score a touchdown on the night’s opening drive. Then New England matched that score with a score of their own when Mac Jones connected with Nelson Agholor for a 34-yard touchdown. From then on, these offenses continued to match each other throughout the first half, tying the knot at the break at 16.

New England opened the last half with a 75-yard touchdown drive to go up by seven. It wasn’t long before Minnesota tied the game again when Kene Nwangwu ran a kickoff 97 yards back for a touchdown.

It was 26-all at the start of the fourth quarter and it was at that point that the Vikings began to pull away. A New England penalty kick for running into the kicker revived Minnesota on a third and fourth kick and they cashed in. 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 the lead and hold it.

Kirk Cousins ​​finished 30 of 37 for 299 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Justin Jefferson was his go-to target and the star wideout had 9 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, breaking a Randy Moss record in the process. Meanwhile, Mac Jones was 28 of 39 for a season-high 382 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions.

Check out our takeaways below for a more detailed look at this game.

Why the Vikings won

While there is a story surrounding Kirk Cousins ​​in primetime games, the Vikings quarterback was mostly good on Thursday. He had a poorly thrown interception, but beyond that, he was great for Minnesota. He was able to match the Patriots’ scoring output and was able to spread the ball to seven different pass catchers. That said, Justin Jefferson was his target and the star continues to carry the charge. In addition to simply piling up stats, Jefferson made a number of clutch catches, including a 36-yard reception that helped set up Thielen’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

While the defense allowed some chunk plays through the air, you also have to give them credit for suppressing the Patriots offense to close out the game. After Minnesota took the 33–26 lead, the defense forced a three-and-out, a turnover on downs on the ensuing possession, then held them out of the end zone as the clock ticked down to the end of regulation.

Why the Patriots lost

New England’s battle in the red zone continued Thursday. Coming into this game, the Patriots ranked 31st in touchdowns in the red zone and went on to go 0–3 in the red zone against the Vikings. Really, the offense was based on Mac Jones’ scraps, which he was able to live up to, as both of his passing scores were over 30 yards away. However, when they knocked on the end zone door, they couldn’t get through. In fact, the Patriots had two drives getting the ball at least to the Vikings’ 6-yard line and failed to score on either touchdown. Yes, there was a questionable Hunter Henry touchdown that was eventually called back, but the Patriots had multiple plays inside the 10-yard line and couldn’t find a way to push through.

Of course, you can’t talk about this loss without bringing up the special team unit. This was a notably 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 team unit immediately allowed Minnesota to tie the game again, allowing a 97-yard kickoff for a touchdown was possible. In the fourth quarter, they also committed a run-up to the kicker penalty that allowed the Vikings to score the game-winning touchdown.

Turning point

This was a back and forth game all night as these clubs had to catch up to tie the game on several points. In the early stages of the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 26 and it looked like New England would force a three-and-out and get the ball back with a chance to take the lead. However, rookie Pierre Strong ran into punter Ryan Wright as he attempted to boot the ball away, which drew a flag. The five-yard penalty was enough to give the Vikings a first and keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Kirk Cousins ​​hit Adam Thielen in what turned out to be the deciding touchdown.

Game of the game

Let’s give Kene Nwangwu some props for taking this kickoff 97 yards to the house. After New England scored on a 37-yard Hunter Henry touchdown to be the second half, it felt like the momentum was shifting toward the Patriots. However, once Nwangwu reversed this, any positive juice the Patriots got quickly drained.

This was the third kickoff return for a touchdown of Nwangwu’s career.

What’s next

From here, the Patriots head back to Foxborough and gear up for another Thursday night game as they will host the Buffalo Bills for their first meeting of the season. As for the Vikings, they’ll hang out at US Bank Stadium and prepare for the New York Jets.

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