The Patriots lost 33–26 to the Vikings in their Thanksgiving game. New England fell to 6-5 as a result of the defeat.
Mack Jones had the best game of the season, but the Patriots’ defense, combined with some specific team errors, left Bill Belichick’s team on the wrong side of the final score.
Here are some conclusions:
Mack Jones had a breakout game, but it wasn’t enough.
For those who have been waiting for McJones to release impressive statistics, Thursday gave a glimpse of his potential. The second-year quarterback had his best game of the season, throwing 28 of 39 passes for 382 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The passing game seemed especially effective, including a 37-yard touchdown to Hunter Henry in the third quarter:
It was a good day for Jones, but in the end it wasn’t enough to help the Patriots win. And as good as Jones was, the New England offense stalled later in the game when it was needed most.
With a field goal and a 26–23 lead in the third quarter, New England hit three balls on their next two shots before flipping the ball on downs and failing to advance past 20 Patriots. -yard line during the final drive of desperation at the end of the game.
The silver lining of the defeat must be the positive steps the Patriots (and Jones in particular) attack seemed to take. However, the subsequent defeat and struggles in the later stages of the game hover over the team’s progress, however encouraging it may be.
Offense (and defense) in the red zone differed from each other.
Although Jones was largely effective in the game and Ramondre Stevenson continued to be the dominant ball-handling force, New England were still leading 0-3 in the red zone.
Of course, there was some controversy on one of those trips (more on that below), but the fact remains that New England ranked 31st in percentage of landings in the red zone and did nothing to change that.
On the other hand, the Vikings have gone 3-5 on trips into the red zone, a high percentage that the Patriot defense usually doesn’t allow.
This, in simple terms, was the difference in the game with such a small margin.
The defense included Dalwyn Cook, but not Justin Jefferson.
Belichick’s game plan against the Vikings’ offense seemed to center around curbing Minnesota running back Dalwyn Cooke and passing the ball into the hands of quarterback Kirk Cousins.
It worked, or at least half worked. New England held off Cook, trailing the veteran just 42 yards on 22 carries. He caught four passes, but only 14 yards.
However, the other half of the game plan collapsed. The Cousins had a good day: 30 of 37 for 299 yards in the air with three touchdowns.
And while the Patriots’ defense limited Cook, it couldn’t handle Viking wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The 23-year-old superstar caught nine passes (11 goals) for 139 yards and landed.
Jefferson made several clutches even after touchdowns, including a 36-yard completion to the Patriots’ 15-yard line in the fourth quarter, which secured the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Refereeing (and NFL rules) proved controversial.
While the topic of refereeing in the NFL is a hot topic, the Patriots were hit by both a missed call and a controversial call Thursday night.
The first came in the third quarter after a touchdown for the Patriots to take a 23–16 lead. Returning Vikings player Kene Nwangwu ran the subsequent kickoff for 97 yards and scored a touchdown. Replays showed up to show that Kyle Dugger, the New England quarterback, was held up in the game, preventing him from potentially making a touchdown-saving tackle.
When Jones and the Patriots got the ball back, they drove across the field into the red zone. On the third and goal at the Minnesota six-yard line, Jones appeared to connect with Henry for another touchdown. However, when watching the game, Henry was deemed not to have completed the catch, despite the ball in his hands breaking the flatness of the goal line.
Former NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant, who himself was involved in the controversial no-catch decision a few years ago, tweeted his scathing thoughts on the NFL decision:
The consensus among NBC television announcers that the umpires made the right decision based on the definition of the NFL rule implies that the controversy in this case was not so much with the officials, but with the continued lack of a clear definition of what, exactly, is the catch.
A week after the winning game, special teams proved costly.
In Week 11, it was a punt return touchdown by Marcus Jones that gave the Patriots the game-breaker against the Jets.
In Week 12, it was a penalty kick by Pierre Strong Jr., who collided with a kicker on fourth and third on the Vikings’ 36-yard line with 11:04 left in the game, that helped New England lose.
It was a blunder by a rookie running back (who also plays on special teams). After getting a second chance on the drive, Cousins quickly led the Vikings forward to score a touchdown.
And although Dagger was fouled during a return touchdown by the Vikings earlier in the game, the game was nonetheless a collective failure of the Patriots’ special teams that failed to stop.
Subscribe to Patriot updates🏈
Get the latest news and insights in your inbox during the football season.