Who knew a prime-time clash between Kirk Cousins and Bill Belichick would be such an offensive explosion?
But in a Thanksgiving Night classic, Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings rallied late for a 33-26 win over the New England Patriots.
Mac Jones only had about 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 from Rhamondre Stevenson put the Pats in the l The other side of the field quickly, but a big sack of third down forced a 4th-and-16. Jones was looking deep for Agholor, but it was just out of reach, and the Vikings took over on the downs.
The Pats managed to force a three-and-out and win the ball back – but they had to go 89 yards in 53 seconds. Jones, however, was sacked on first down for a loss of eight. Safe to say that was too much for New England, and time ran out, despite two more completions.
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The Vikings only needed five plays to get into the end zone to start the game — and who else but Justin Jefferson — but the Pats responded right away with a 34-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. It was 7-7 less than seven minutes into the game.
The score calmed down a bit as both teams settled for a few field goals, but within two minutes of the second quarter, TJ Hockenson grabbed a touchdown to put Minnesota ahead 16-13 (Greg Joseph missed the PAT that followed). But Jones managed to put the Pats on the other side of the field quickly so Nick Folk could 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 to Hunter Henry, and New England had a 23-16. However, the Vikings immediately responded with a 97-yard kickoff return for a Kene Nwqngwu touchdown to tie the game.
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And what did Jones do to respond? Returned directly to the field. Henry nearly caught his second touchdown of the night, but replay revealed he didn’t complete the catch, so the Pats settled for three. The Vikings then came 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 close to returning the ball, but a 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, a score that proved to be the game winner.
Cousins, whose primetime struggles are highly rated, was brilliant in this one — he threw for 299 yards on 30 of 37 passes, throwing for three touchdowns. Jefferson’s 139 receiving yards was a game-high (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 that lasted just 44 games. Moss notched that number in 48 games.
Jones was certainly no slouch in a losing effort, however – he threw 382 yards through the air, completing 28 of 39 passes without returning the ball. 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, host the Buffalo Bills 8-3 a week from Thursday.