The Patriots celebrated Thanksgiving with one of the most entertaining games they’ve played this season. There’s no doubt that if Patriots fans were tired from a day of eating, they probably woke up after this game started.
We saw four lead changes and the game was drawn five more times
Before you knew it, the Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings were going toe-to-toe. Before you knew it, your heart was pumping and Mac Jones was having his best game of 2022.
On this Thursday evening it was the last few minutes. Seven minutes behind, the Patriots recovered the ball 4:21 on the clock and 87 yards from the end zone. Jones hit Kendrick Bourne for a 14 win to start the drive. Two games later, Rhamondre Stevenson caught a pass and ran 40 yards down.
The Patriots’ momentum reached a screeching half as Danielle Hunter defeated Trent Brown to sack Jones for a nine-down loss in third and seventh. That opened up another chance with two minutes left – a fourth and a 16. Jones’ deep pass to Nelson Agholor went incomplete for a turnover on downs.
The Patriots got the ball back with 28 seconds remaining. After being released, Jones hit Bourne for 17 yards and Jakobi Meyers for 23 yards. However, Meyers fell to the ground at the 42-yard line after time was up. The Patriots fall to 6-4 in a matchup with Buffalo on deck.
Here are three reasons the Patriots lost:
The Patriots’ special teams faltered
Special teams factored into this game for both teams. In the end, the Patriots’ mistakes cost them 14 points.
Even though the Patriots played better offense, they still struggled in the red zone and struggled to find the end zone. By the time we got into the fourth quarter, Nick Folk had converted four field goals and the Vikings scored a special teams touchdown.
Marcus Jones is shaping up to be a game changer for the Patriots. The rookie opened Thursday’s game with a special team tackle on the opening kickoff. Then, in the second quarter, he took a kickoff and ran it back 46 yards. That set up offense in midfield and led to a Folk kick from 46 yards to give the Patriots a 13-10 lead at 5:41 of the second.
As good as Folk and Jones were, the rest of the special teams didn’t follow them.
The Vikings’ special unit also showed up. At 10:41 of the third quarter, Kene Nwangwu ran a kickoff return 97 yards back for a touchdown. This followed a result from Hunter Henry and just like that, Minnesota tied the game 23-23.
That tie was broken by Folk’s fourth field goal from 25 yards at 6:43 of the third quarter, and the Patriots led 26:23. Not to be outdone, Viking kicker Greg Joseph tied the game with a 36-yard catch at 14:07 of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots’ special teams made another costly mistake. At 11:04 a.m. of the fourth quarter, Pierre Strong was flagged for encountering Viking punter Ryan Wright. With a 26:26 draw, this gave the Vikings a first down. Three games later, Cousins beat Thielen for a 15-yard touchdown and that became the game-winning touchdown.
Patriots settled for field goals and dried up in the fourth
Mac Jones has faced a lot of criticism this season. On Sunday, the sophomore quarterback silenced some doubters with one of his best games of the season. Jones finished with a career-high 382 yards on 28 of 39 passes with two touchdowns.
However, the Patriots were still fighting in the red zone.
After the Vikings started, the Patriots responded. It took Jones just five plays to rush for 75 yards and finish the game 7-7. Jones had two beauties on the show. He beat out Jakobi Meyers for a 26-yard pass play to start the drive and then hit Agholor for a 34-yard touchdown to finish it 8:21 in the first quarter. That result marked the Patriots’ first touchdown of the 2022 season.
After a three-and-out, the offensive started their third drive at the 17-yard line due to Jon Jones’ interception. However, the team’s inefficiency in the red zone reared its ugly head when Bourne lost 7 yards on a run play. The Patriots eventually opted for a folk field goal.
Jones looked great before halftime, completing four passes for 22, 16, 14 and 13 yards. However, two mistakes could have cost them four points. That 2-minute drive was efficient, but Hunter Henry failed to get out of bounds on a 22-yard catch. Instead of throwing the ball away, Jones picked up a sack three games later. That cost the Patriots two timeouts, and by the time they got to the 5-yard line, they had none left. Despite this, Folk kicked in a 23-yard field goal and the Patriots went into halftime tied, 16-16.
The Patriots turned that into a field goal and then the Patriots quarterback came on fire from the second half. Jones completed 5 of 6 passes, including two third-down conversions, to go to Hunter Henry on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Henry made a nice move to miss the initial defensive back to put the Patriots 23-16 ahead.
That was Jones’ first game of the 2022 season with two touchdown passes.
After the Vikings leveled the game, Jones looked great again after a kick return touchdown. The quarterback hit DeVante Parker with a 40-yard pass. Three games later it looked like he might have beaten Henry for another touchdown, but the officials flipped him over and stranded the offense at the 6 yard line. Folk then hit his fourth field goal to give the Patriots a 26-23.
As good as Jones looked, the offense fell flat in the fourth quarter. Minnesota equalized the game and took a 33-26 lead. The Patriots offense started the fourth round with two three-and-outs. Despite the strong start, the Patriots remained scoreless in the last quarter.
Justin Jefferson was too good
The Patriots have discovered why many are calling Justin Jefferson the best receiver in the NFL. Jefferson passed Randy Moss for the most yards in three seasons on Thursday and he was a problem for the Patriots.
It took the Vikings eight games to haul 80 yards en route to that early 7-0 lead Thursday. The opening drive was not competitive. Kirk Cousins completed 4 of 4 passes for 42 yards before hitting Justin Jefferson for a 6-yard touchdown at 10:40 of the first quarter.
On the next drive the defense was much better and kept the Vikings on a three-and-out. Jonathan Jones deflected a pass intended for third-place Jefferson to force the punt. Jones also advanced to the next series, intercepting Cousins at 3:43 of the first quarter. He returned the pickaxe 55 yards.
Jefferson caught a 21-yard pass on the next drive. That helped set up a 30-yard field goal from Joseph at 8:29 of the second quarter to level the game 10:10. On the next series, Jefferson caught a 37-yard pass in double cover and then a 17-yard reception. That led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to TJ Hockenson at 1:30 of the second quarter. missed the extra point and Minnesota led 16-13.
After Strong ran into the kicker penalty, Cousins made the Patriots pay with a 36-yard low pass to Jefferson at 11:04 of the fourth. The quarterback then hit Thielen for a 15-yard score on the next play.
Jefferson finished with nine catches for 139 yards before his touchdown.