Kirk Cousins threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, the last of which was a go-ahead hit by Adam Thelin with 9:34 left to lead Minnesota past the New England Patriots in a 33-26 victory Thursday night.
Justin Jefferson had 139 receiving yards and one touchdown pass from Cousins, who put up a clutch performance against a formidable defense the Vikings (9-2) needed to bounce back from an blowout loss four days earlier.
They’ve bounced around a few times within the game, too. After Cousins was sacked by Jonathan Jones, who returned it 55 yards to set up a field goal in the first quarter, the Vikings scored five consecutive possessions except for a kneeling touchdown to end the first half.
“Kevin helped me a lot,” said Cousins, who went 30 for 37. “Sometimes, it almost makes me cry the way these guys support me.”
Mack Jones passed for a career-high 382 yards and two scores to knock out a Patriots (6-5) late offense, but they ran out of steam. The fourth quarter included two punt threes, a touchdown turnover at the Minnesota 39 and a final desperation short drive.
Jones found Hunter Henry for a wide open pass from 37 yards to start the second half for a 23-16 lead. Kene Nwangwu scored on a 97-yard kickoff return to hit the Vikings’ right back.
Jones – who has completed over 77% of his passes over the last two games – appeared to shoot Henry for another goal on the next possession with a crooked fist at the goal line that was touching down the field. The replay deflection into an incomplete pass forced the Patriots to settle for Nick Folk’s fourth goal of the game.
“My hand was under it even when it hit the ground,” Henry said.
Another vital call headed to the Vikings a few minutes later when Pierre Strong, Jr. was called out for running into punter Ryan Wright. With a fresh set of downs, Cousins and the Vikings cruised down the field for the go-ahead.
“We definitely had to show people that last week wasn’t our week,” Jefferson said.
O’Connell also got a win bonus over Bill Belichick, who drafted him with the Patriots in 2008.
“It means a lot, just because I have such great respect for that organization and Coach Belichick,” O’Connell said.
The Patriots allowed just three points in each of their last two games and brought NFL leader Matt Gooddon to the stadium as the Dallas Vikings defeated Sunday while Cousins picked up seven sacks.
With standout left tackle Christian Darisot sidelined with a concussion, the Vikings provided plenty of extra help for Blake Brundle and put Cousins in much more favorable situations with shorter drops and faster throws. The Vikings had 231 yards in the first half, more than the Patriots had allowed in the previous two games combined.
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Jefferson had his footprints all over this game from the start, when his 3-yard reception on a crossing run in the end zone capped off the opening drive. He made catch after improbable catch in tight coverage, including a 36-yard grab on the go right before being caught by Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty. Thielen’s touchdown came on the next play.
His cousins said, “His ability neither to hear footsteps nor to graze his arm but to bring it and pop it, that is one of his many traits.”
Jefferson set the NFL record for most receiving yards in the first three seasons of a player passing Randy Moss. Jefferson has reached the 100-yard mark in 21 of 44 career games, and this was one of his best due to the way Belichick’s defenses frequently focus on getting star players out of the mix.
“Kevin did a good job. They made a few more plays than we did,” Belichick said.
Patriots: RB Damien Harris (groin) is injured in the third quarter and does not return. … C David Andrews (groin) and RT Isaiah Wynn (foot) were inactive, and James Ferentz and Yodny Cajost replaced them in the starting lineup.
Vikings: Duke of Shelley started fourth, as Cameron Dantzler Sr. (ankle), Achilles Evans (concussion) and Andrew Booth Jr. (knee) missed. … De Dalphin Tomlinson (calf) missed his fourth straight game, with James Lynch grabbing a hit.
Patriots: Host the Buffalo Bills on December 1 in another game Thursday night.
Vikings: Host the New York Jets on Dec. 4. They can clinch the NFC North division with a win and some help.
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