It was two drastic different outcomes for the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings last weekend. As Marcus Jones took a last-second punt return to the house to give the Patriots a near walk-off 10-3 victory, the Vikings then took the field and got their doors blown off by the Dallas Cowboys with a final score of 40-3.
Both teams had to quickly put last week’s ups and downs in the rearview mirror, however, as they will take the field on Thanksgiving night to cap off a short week.
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Minnesota got the ball first to start Thursday night’s contest and got right to work. Cousins found Johnny Mundt for 13 yards then immediately went to Justin Jefferson on a quick screen for an additional seven – a Jon Jones facemark penalty added 15 more yards. After Cousins found Thielen for 16 yards, Minnesota dialed up the trickery as Jefferson found Thielen for another first down. Three plays later, Cousins found his superstar receiver streaking across the field for an early score. [Patriots 0 : 7 Vikings]
Trailing early, Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense quickly answered Minnesota’s score. Starting under center, Jones was not phased by a muffed snap and hit Jakobi Meyers down field off play-action for 26 yards. After a RPO run by Damien Harris for seven yards and an additional carry for four more, Mac found Henry for a four-yard gain before ripping one downfield between the safeties to Nelson Agholor for a 34-yard touchdown. [Patriots 7 : 7 Vikings]
After a fast start from both offenses, the Patriots defense settled in on their second drive. Facing a third-and-one after a six-yard catch by Jefferson and three-yard carry by Dalvin Cook, Cousins third-down pass intended for Jefferson was broken up (and nearly intercepted) by Jonathan Jones.
New England turned to Rhamondre Stevenson on their next drive, as the back totaled a five-yard carry and two-yard catch to start the drive. On third-down, Jones’ quick pass out to Stevenson was slightly high but dropped incomplete, leading to a punt.
After allowing an opening first-down, the Patriots’ defense found their successful script. Blowing up Cook’s second-down run to put Minnesota in a third-and-long, New England was able to get after Cousins and force an errant pass – which was intercepted by Jonathan Jones.
Starting at Minnesota 17-yard line after the interception, New England’s red-area issues continued. An designed run to Kendrick Bourne on second-down was stopped for a seven-yard loss. Jones’ third-down pass Agholor was short of the sticks, leading to a 34-yard field goal from Nick Folk. [Patriots 10 : 7 Vikings]
Back with the ball and facing a third-and-seven, Kirk Cousins delivered a strong anticipatory ball to T.J. Hockenson along the right sideline for a 14-yard conversion. Two plays later, Cousins ripped a play-action pass across the middle of the field to Jefferson for a 21-yard gain. Minnesota then moved inside the red-area after running backs Alexander Mattison and Dalvin Cook picked up a pair of first downs. Facing a third-and-15 after Matthew Judon drew a holding penalty, Cousins’ pass to Adam Thielen came up short. Greg Joseph’s 30-yard field goal was good to cap off a 14-play, 72-yard drive. [Patriots 10 : 10 Vikings]
New England started right outside midfield after a 46-yard kick return from Marcus Jones, who picked up right where he left off. Stevenson then got the drive started with a 14-yard run, but was just short of picking up an additional third-down through the air several plays later. Nick Folk then connected on a 46-yard field goal. [Patriots 13 : 10 Vikings]
The Vikings started their next drive on the ground, but Jahlani Tavai plowed through the line to stop Cook for a two-yard loss. Facing a then third-and-12, an offsides by Judon set Minnesota up for a third-and-seven. Cousins then aired one out downfield to who else but Jefferson, who hauled it in for 37 yards. Two plays later, Cousins again found Jefferson for 17 more yards. Out of the two minute warning, Cousins found T.J. Hockenson along the goal line for a touchdown. Greg Joseph, however, pushed the extra point wide right. [Patriots 13 : 16 Vikings]
With 1:30 remaining in the half, Mac Jones got to work. He first found Stevenson in the left flat for five yards before Hunter Henry broke loose for a 22-yard gain. Henry did not get out of bounds, however, and New England had to burn one of their turn remaining time outs. Jones then connected on back-to-back passes to DeVante Parker for 30 combined yards, but then gave himself up at the line of scrimmage and New England was forced to burn their last time out. Jones then found Agholor for 13 yards to set New England up at the five-yard line, but they had just nine seconds remaining after being forced to burn their two timeouts earlier. With their one play, Jones’ goal line fade to Kendrick Bourne fell incomplete. Nick Folk then hit a 23-yard field goal. [Patriots 16 : 16 Vikings]
With two seconds left in the half, Kirk Cousins kneeled.
After an upbeat first half, the Patriots faced an opening drive third-and-one. Off play-action, Jones found DeVante Parker on a shallow cross for a 10-yard conversion. New England then faced another third-and-shot, which Jones again converted by finding Jakobi Meyers across the middle of the field for 13 yards. Two plays later, New England dialed up play-action power – after running power twice earlier this drive – and Jones found Henry for a 37-yard catch and run touchdown. [Patriots 23 : 16 Vikings]
Minnesota immediately answered Henry’s touchdown, as Knee Nwangwu returned the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. [Patriots 23 : 23 Vikings]
Back on the field right away, Mac Jones continued to deal for New England. Jones found Stevenson and Agholor to start the drive for 17 combined yards, then uncorked a dime downfield to DeVante Parker for a 40-yard gain three plays later. On third-and-goal at the Minnesota six-yard line, Jones found Henry on an out route for another score, but it was ruled incomplete after a lengthy review. Nick Folk hit a 25-yard field goal to give New England another lead. [Patriots 26 : 23 Vikings]
Injury Report: RB Damien Harris (thigh) is questionable to return.
With their first offensive possession of the second half, Cousins found Cook through the air to convert a short third-down. On the next play, Cousins connected with Thielen for three more yards, but Jonathan Jones’ second face mask penalty of the day tacked on an additional 15 yards. Right outside mid-field on a following third-and-seven, Myles Bryant fell down in man coverage leaving Jalen Reagor wide open for a 25-yard gain. Several plays later, Cousins’ pass fell incomplete to Theilen, but Bryant was flagged for unnecessary roughness as he hit a falling Thielen in the back. With a fresh set of downs at the 11-yard line, Cook picked up two yards before Josh Uche quickly beat backup left tackle Blake Brandel and brought down Cousins for a sack. On third-and-17, the pass fell incomplete leading to a 36-yard field goal. [Patriots 26 : 26 Vikings]
New England’s first drive of the fourth quarter did not bring the same success the past few have. A one-yard pass to Stevenson started the drive followed by an incompletion to Nelson Agholor. On third-and-nine, Jones was forced to the right and lobbed one up to Jakobi Meyers which just fell incomplete. Michael Palardy punted back to Minnesota.
Quickly back on the field after a 14-play drive, Minnesota turned to Dalvin Cook who picked up four yards on the ground, but then lost three yards on a screen that was blown up by Ja’Whaun Bentley and Raekwon McMillan. On third-and-nine, a false start penalty pushed Minnesota back into a third-and-14 where Cousins’ pass to Hockenson went short of the sticks. On the punt, Pierre Strong was flagged for a running into the punter to give the Vikings a first-down. Two plays later, Cousins connected with Jefferson downfield between Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty for a 36-yard completion. After using a timeout, Cousins hit Adam Thielen the very next play off play-action for a 15-yard touchdown. [Patriots 26 : 33 Vikings]
Now trailing, New England’s offensive struggles remained. Facing a third-and-one, Jones looked downfield to Hunter Henry who ended up on the ground. Henry looked for a hold while Jones looked for a hands to the face in the backfield, but neither were called. Palardy’s punt back to Minnesota went for just 31 yards.
With over eight minutes remaining, the Patriots defense did their job. After surrendering one first-down, Cousins’ screen on second-down was beat by Jalen Mills for a four-yard loss. On third-down, Cousins’ pass fell incomplete leading to a punt.