Who knew a prime-time matchup between Kirk Cousins and Bill Belichick would be such an offensive attack?
But in a Thanksgiving evening classic, Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings rallied late for a 33-26 victory over the New England Patriots.
Mack Jones had just four and a half minutes to get into the end zone to keep the game alive, with the Pats trailing by seven. A long catch and run by Ramondre Stevenson put the Pats on the other side of the field quickly, but a big sack on third down forced a fourth-and-16. Jones looked for Agholar deep, but it was just out of his reach. , and the Vikings took over the lowlands.
The Pats were able to force a three-and-out and get the ball — but had to go 89 yards in 53 seconds. Jones, though, was sacked on first down for a loss of eight. Safe to say, it was too much for New England, and they ran out the clock despite two more completions.
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The Vikings needed just five plays to get into the end zone to start the game – and who else but Justin Jefferson – but the Pats answered with a 34-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. It was 7-7 less than seven minutes into the game.
Scoring was held back for a while, as both teams settled for a couple of field goals, but two minutes into the second quarter, TJ Hawkinson caught a touchdown to put Minnesota up 16-13 (Greg Joseph coming Wally missed the PAT). But Jones was able to quickly put the Pats on the other side of the field for Nick Folk to tie the game at 16 before halftime.
The Pats got the ball at halftime, and Jones continued his electricity — a quick drive ended with a 37-yard touchdown run to Hunter Henry, and New England won 23-16. However, the Vikings quickly answered with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Kenny Nokingo to tie the game.
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And what did Jones do to respond? Marched back to the field. Henry almost caught his second touchdown of the night, but replays showed he didn’t finish the catch, so the Pats settled for three. The Vikings then got inside the Pats’ 10-yard line after a long drive, but had to settle for three early in the fourth, tying the game at 26.
After a Patriots punt, the Vikings were poised to punt the ball away, but a running kicker penalty kept their drive alive. Naturally, Cousins found Jefferson for a 36-yard gain. On the next play, he hit old reliable Adam Thielen in the back of the end zone to make it 33-26 Minnesota with 9:34 left, the score that turned out to be the game-winner.
Cousins, whose primetime struggles have been well noted, was pretty good at it — he threw for 299 yards on 30-of-37 passing, throwing for three touchdowns. Jefferson had a game-high 139 receiving yards (he also had nine receptions), and Thielen added nine catches for 61 yards.
Jefferson also set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first three seasons, surpassing Randy Moss’ 4,163. Jefferson now has 4,248 in his career spanning just 44 games. Moss put up that number in 48 games.
Jones was certainly no slouch in the losing effort, though — he threw for 382 yards through the air, completing 28 of his 39 passes without turning the ball over. Stevenson caught a team-high nine passes for 78 yards, while Devante Parker’s 80 receiving yards led the Pats receivers.
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The 9-2 Vikings will visit the New York Jets (6-4) in Week 13, while the Pats, now 6-5, will host the 8-3 Buffalo Bills starting Thursday.