4 hours earlier than the Vikings’ Thanksgiving recreation in opposition to the Patriots, Kevin O’Connell walked into the locker room at US Financial institution Stadium and was shocked to see what number of gamers had been already within the constructing.
The group had suffered its worst loss in Minneapolis 4 days earlier; Thursday night time’s recreation gave the Vikings an opportunity to shortly erase that 37-point loss to the Cowboys. In the event that they felt this recreation was not of their character, the 33-26 victory they produced in opposition to the Patriots – sweating all the best way – was a return to kind that places them on the precipice of an NFC North title.
“It reveals how excited the fellows had been to come back right here and present that power, that pleasure, that brotherhood that we’ve got on this locker room,” receiver Adam Thielen mentioned. “I believe that is what helped us win.”
After Kirk Cousins discovered Thielen for a landing with 9:40 to go, the Vikings go rush introduced up his greatest performs of the night time, stopping the Patriots’ remaining two drives with sacks from Danielle Hunter and Khiris Tonga.
The win improved the Vikings’ document to 9-2, giving them an opportunity to clinch the NFC North at dwelling with a win over the Jets subsequent Sunday and losses to the Packers and Lions.
Cousins, who overcame a first-half interception, accomplished 30 of 37 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Thielen’s got here on a play the Vikings had tried to name a number of occasions; The Cousins had left the sport when the Patriots did not current the protection they needed.
The quarterback received to the road of scrimmage earlier than his helmet went off; he might hear O’Connell say, “We have the look [we wanted]The Patriots performed with Devin McCourty as their solely deep security, following Justin Jefferson throughout the sphere; Thielen crossed to the alternative facet, carrying a landing go into the left again nook of the top zone behind Jalen Mills.
“I used to be cussed [with that call]”, O’Connell mentioned with a smile. “I used to be going to maintain discovering the look that we had been going for, and like nice coaches do, they had been in a position to range some issues. Our complete group was prepared – pocket clear. I believe Kirk had three or 4 points proper there. Although it is a recreation go, you continue to want to dam the person above you and block the sides. I believed it was one of many cleanest pockets all night time. We thought we would get one in all these guys; Kirk had an excellent name and an unimaginable shot in that second.”
The Patriots postponed after profitable the opening coin toss, giving the Vikings the ball first. And for the seventh time in 11 video games this season, the Vikings have scored of their opener.
After Jefferson known as for quicker passing on Monday to assist ease the strain on Cousins, the Vikings began with a sequence of brief throws, together with a fast 7-yard completion on their third play for the sport’s first catch of the sport. Jefferson. The apply ended with Cousins hitting Jefferson on a passing route for a landing, placing the Vikings up 7-0.
The Patriots, who did not rating an offensive landing final week, got here again with a fast TD drive designed by large performs.
Jakobi Meyers’ diving catch gave New England a 24-yard acquire on its first play, and with the Patriots on the Vikings’ 34, Nelson Agholor ran a teeing route from the slot. Chandon Sullivan handed Agholor to Vikings safeties, and Agholor headed down right into a seam between Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum, catching Mac Jones’ go for a 34-yard landing.
Two Vikings possessions later, Cousins threw within the center for KJ Osborn with New England deal with Daniel Ekuale diving to the quarterback’s ankles 3.25 seconds after the snap. Cousins’ go sailed over Osborn’s head and Jonathan Jones intercepted it to arrange a Patriots discipline aim.
Cousins stood on a podium smiling after the sport as he spoke concerning the Vikings’ ninth win of the season. It will not hold him, he mentioned, trying critically on the pictures he missed.
“That is how I’m, man,” he mentioned. “I am going again and take into consideration all of the video games I have to be higher. I in all probability drive my household loopy to be like this, however that is simply the best way I am wired. I am a bit obsessed by enchancment, so even when issues are good, my thoughts asks ‘How can they be higher?’ “
However Cousins may also overview throws to Jefferson during which he suits between the Patriots’ double groups, such because the 37-yard run the place Jefferson’s over-the-shoulder catch allowed a landing for TJ Hockenson.
The rating put the Vikings up 16-13 late within the first half after kicker Greg Joseph missed his fifth further level of the season.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who completed with a career-high 382 yards, led the Patriots into aim vary earlier than halftime with 22, 16, 14 and 13 yards.
The Patriots stored pitching to start out the second half. Jones, with loads of time to take a seat within the pocket, discovered receivers in area in midfield. On a
second and 10 of the Vikings 37, he threw within the center for offside motion from tight finish Hunter Henry. Henry evaded Bynum’s diving deal with try and burst into the top zone to make the Patriots 23-16.
The Vikings’ response got here within the type of one in all many game-changing particular groups video games.
Kene Nwangwu grabbed the following kickoff at Vikings 3, picked up a block on the left sideline and burst into the open air. His 97-yard return, the third TD kick return of his profession, tied the rating at 23.
Jones chased Duke Shelley on the Patriots’ subsequent apply as he had accomplished for a lot of the night time, hitting DeVante Parker for 41 yards to place the Patriots in place for one more landing. However after officers dominated Henry had scored from a 6-yard go from Jones, a overview revealed he had misplaced the ball because it went to floor. The Patriots settled for a basket that introduced the rating to 26-23.
“I believed we would both be on the lookout for a quarter-and-inch or it was incomplete,” O’Connell mentioned. “It is a type of issues that might have occurred in numerous methods, however I used to be very pleased that it occurred like that.”
The Vikings tied the rating after Cousins led one other drive for a discipline aim. The protection pressured solely their second draw of the night time (after strain from Harrison Smith on one of many Vikings’ first blitzes of the sport) and a penalty breathed new life into the Vikings on what turned out be a inexperienced mild drive.
Patriots working again Pierre Sturdy’s helmet hit Ryan Wright’s foot as he chased down his second punt of the night time, and officers known as Sturdy for hitting the kicker, giving the Vikings a primary down.
The Cousins hit Jefferson for 36 yards on double protection two performs later. Then got here the landing on play that O’Connell and Cousins had been ready for all night time.
“Kirk did a great job studying it and pulling it in there,” Thielen mentioned. “It was about to be tipped, however I am glad we completed it.”
And the Vikings, as they’ve accomplished so many occasions this season, managed to maintain their season from going off the rails.
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