It was a game tying kick return for a touchdown and running into the kicker penalty that propelled the Minnesota Vikings to a 33-26 win over the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving night. The 97 yard return by Kene Nwangwu tied the game up after the Patriots had taken the opening possession of the second half for a touchdown. It was a roughing the punter penalty called on New England’s Pierre Strong that extended the Vikings drive that eventually lead to the go ahead touchdown.
Minnesota opened the scoring by driving 80 yards of eight plays when Justin Jefferson caught a six yard pass from Kirk Cousins. The drive featured a balanced attack, including a hand off to Jefferson, who then pulled up and tossed it to Adam Theilen for a first down. It took all of two minutes and nineteen seconds for the Patriots to answer with the touchdown of their own. The Patriots went on the attack immediately, which quarterback Mac Jones going 3-3 for 63 yards on the 75 yard, five play scoring drive. Later in the first the Patriots were able to come away with the first turnover of the game as Jonathan Jones picked off a Cousins overthrow and returned it into the red zone. The Patriots turned it into three points as Nick Folk drilled a 34 yard field goal to give the Patriots a 10-7 lead with 1:28 to go in the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Vikings were able to sustain a time consuming drive as they held the ball for 7:59 over 14 plays and 72 yards. They came away with a field goal at the 8:29 mark of the second quarter to tie the game at 10-10. Marcus Jones took the ensuing kickoff back the New England 49 yard line, where the Patriots drove it to the Viking 27 yard line because being forced to have Folk kick a 46 yard field goal to make the score 13-10 with just over five minutes left in the first half. The Vikings turned around and drove right back down the field and scored with Iowa native and former Hawkeye scoring his first Minnesota Vikings touchdown on a third down and goal to go play from the one yard line. Kicker Greg Joseph pushed the extra point attempt the right of the uprights, which made the score 16-13 Vikings at the 1:30 mark in the second quarter. The Patriots ran a very effective two minute drill and turned it into three points over their own to close out the half with the score tied, 16-16.
The Patriots had the first possession of the second half and they immediately turned it into points, capping the drive with a 37 yard touchdown strike from Mac Jones to tight end Hunter Henry to give the Patriots a 23-16 lead. The drive covered 75 yards in just over four minutes of game clock. However, former Cyclone Kene Nwangwu answered back immediately as he returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a game tying touchdown. The Patriots took the punch and threw one of their own as they went right back down the field to apparently score a on another Jones to Hunter pass and catch. There was controversy on the catch as it was unclear if Hunter was able to keep his hand under the ball as he stretched across the goal line. After review, the officials ruled the pass incomplete and instead Folk knocked through his fourth field goal of the night to give the Patriots a 26-23 lead. The Vikings drove out the rest of the third quarter clock, reaching the New England nine yard line before entering the final frame.
The Patriots Josh Uche opened the fourth quarter with a thunderous sack of Kirk Cousins, which gave the Vikings a third and 17 from their own 18 yard line. After and incomplete pass Greg Joseph hit another field goal, this time from 36 yards, to tie the game at 26-26. After a New England punt it appeared that the Patriots had stopped the Vikings, forcing a punt. Instead, a running into the kicker penalty extended the drive and the Vikings made them pay, completing 36 yard pass to Justin Jefferson to the 15 yard line. They followed that up with a touchdown strike to Adam Thielen to make the score 33-26 with 9:34 remaining. After exchanging possessions the Patriots had the ball at their own 13 yard line with just over four minutes to try to tie the game. The Patriots were able to quickly move inside the Vikings 35 yard line, but a sack on third down left the New England facing 4th and 16th after the two minute warning. The Vikings defense held. After a three and out the Pats had one last gasp from their own 13 yard line. While the Patriots were able complete a long pass to the New England 42, the clock ran out and Minnesota was able to secure the victory.
Kirk Cousins finished the game with 299 passing yards 30 completions. He threw three touchdowns and one interception. Mac Jones closed out the night 28/39 with 382 yards passing and two touchdowns. Justin Jefferson racked up 139 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions.
The Vikings push their record to 9-2 and will host the New York Jets in week 13. The Patriots fall to 6-5 and will follow this Thursday night game with another as they host the Buffalo Bills on December 1st.