Vikings hold off Patriots, take lead in NFC North
Both teams scored early in each half, including a thrilling punt return by the Vikings in response to a Patriots score to open the second half.
The Vikings move to 9-2 on the season, while the Patriots fall to 6-5.
Fresh off one of the worst home losses in team history, the Vikings did exactly what they wanted Thursday night: Move on from it.
Their victory over the Patriots made it much easier to carry over the 37-point loss they absorbed four days earlier than Dallas Cowboyswhich questioned whether they could be considered one of the NFL’s best teams.
By beating the Patriots, the Vikings recorded their second victory over a team with a winning record in their last three games. If someone told you the Vikings would beat the Patriots Buffalo Bills in a period of three weeks, what would you say about them? A reasonable argument could be made that, yes, they are a top five team in the NFL.
Just as important, he plays the receiving Cowboy Justin Jefferson called “embarrassing” and “a disaster all around” may be better seen as an aberration rather than a deep look into the future of the Vikings.
The Vikings will now have 10 days to prepare for their next game, at home vs New York Jetsas they close in on the NFC North title and remain in contention for the NFC’s top seed.
Describe the game in two words: Very close. The Vikings led three separate times in this game, lost twice and tied the Patriots five times overall. Those kinds of games rarely happen in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was just the second time in seven seasons that the score was separately tied at least five different times.
QB breakdown: Kirk Cousins threw a bad tackle in the first quarter, a throw off his back foot that sailed wide of the receiver KJ Osborne, but he avoided some more big mistakes during this primetime game. He finished with 30 catches, his most against the Patriots this season, on 37 attempts for 299 yards and two scores. Most importantly, he expertly led the Vikings to their game-winning touchdown by throwing a perfect 36-yard pass to Jefferson before finding Adam Thielen open for a 15-yard score.
Key game: Returnee Ken Nwangwu returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, his first of the season after returning two for a score as a rookie last season. The return answered the Patriots’ touchdown on the previous play to tie the game 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 Nwangwu this season. He entered the game with 19 punt returns all season, as most teams kicked deep for touchbacks, but he had five against the Patriots alone.
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 team Minnesota Vikings.
They were 0 for 3 inside the 20-yard line against the NFL’s last-ranked red zone defense. The Vikings were 3 of 5.
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 “flip the switch” in the red zone, but it didn’t bear fruit against the Vikings.
A third-quarter underdog call overturned by referee Alex Kemp — when Jones initially appeared to have stepped into the tight end Hunter Henry for a touchdown — was a significant 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 – covering the receiver Justin Jefferson. He destroyed the Patriots (9 catches, 139 yards, 1 TD) and showed why he is one of the elite pass catchers in the NFL.
Describe the game in two words: Playoff caliber. Great environment at US Bank Stadium and two teams that battled it out.
QB breakdown: Jones had his best game of the season — especially when he was attacking down 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: Short offensive line — with a left tackle Trent Brownleft back Cole Strangecenter James Ferentzright back To Mike Onwen and the right move Yodny Cajuste — gave Jones the best pass protection he’s had all season. As a result, Jones looked like a different quarterback.
Important under-the-radar stats: The Patriots allowed five first downs on penalties, tied for the most in a game over the past three seasons. That’s their most since Week 11 in 2019 at Philly (also five).
Next game: vs. Bills (8:15 p.m. ET, Thursday)
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