Patriots-Vikings takeaways: Mac Jones looks sharp in losing effort originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings played one of the most entertaining games of the 2022 NFL season on Thanksgiving Night. The back-and-forth fling ended with Minnesota on top, 33-26.
After preventing the New York Jets from scoring a touchdown in Week 11, the Patriots’ defense struggled to contain the Vikings’ passing offense. Kirk Cousins completed 30 of his 37 attempts for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Superstar wideout Justin Jefferson did the most damage with nine catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
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The defense and special teams, along with costly penalties and a few controversial calls, spoiled an encouraging performance from Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. He stepped up to throw for a career-high 382 yards with two touchdowns – and a third that was reversed — in the losing effort.
Here are three takeaways from what was an exciting Thanksgiving shootout, but a disappointing result for New England.
Sanctions prove costly
Our Tom E. Curran said it best: “The patriots’ penchant for punishment is dazzling to behold.”
Penalties have been a problem for New England all season and they were another difference maker in Thursday’s loss. The Patriots were penalized six times for 55 yards.
Myles Bryant was flagged for a personal foul on a hit on Vikings off Adam Thielen. Jonathan Jones received two face mask penalties. Pierre Strong ran into the punter to continue a drive in Minnesota that eventually turned into the winning TD.
Those kinds of plays are usually unusual for a team coached by Bill Belichick, but they dragged the Patriots down through the 2022 campaign. On Thursday, you could definitely argue that this was the reason they came up short.
Mac Jones has his best game of 2022
What makes the loss to the Patriots even worse is that it was Jones’ best game of the season so far, and arguably his best as a pro.
The Patriots sophomore quarterback showed some flashes last Sunday vs. the New York Jets, but he still couldn’t find the end zone in the 10-3 victory. He wasted no time and put points on the board on Thursday evening.
Jones quickly responded to the Vikings’ opening drive touchdown with a touchdown of his own, a 34-yarder from Nelson Agholor. It was the Patriots offense’s first touchdown in a first quarter this season.
Jones kept it rolling in the third quarter with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry.
Despite the absence of David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn, the Patriots offensive line did its part for most of the evening to give Jones a chance to shine. Jones had much more time to operate in the pocket and was sacked only three times – the third came in the dying moments of the game. It is no surprise that an improved o-line left Jones looking like his 2021 self.
Without a controversial reverse call on what appeared to be a second Henry TD, Jones would have three for the game and possibly a different end result.
Despite the loss, Jones can hang his hat on his most impressive stats of the season so far. He finished 28 of 39 for a career-high 382 yards, two TDs, zero interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 119.8. He hopes to keep warm in a major division game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium next Thursday.
Justin Jefferson is a cheat code
You already knew that, but it’s worth repeating. Jefferson gave a show on national television Thursday night.
The Patriots’ usually solid defense had no answer to the Vikings’ superstar for much of the game. Jefferson immediately made his presence felt with a touchdown reception on the opening drive. He went on to make history, breaking Hall of Famer Randy Moss’ record for most receiving yards in the first three seasons of an NFL career.
Jefferson showed off his great playing skills with a handful of ridiculous holds, including these:
And another one that set up the start of the Vikings’ TD in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings selected Jefferson at number 22 in the 2020 NFL Draft, a spot ahead of the Patriots. New England traded from that No. 23 pick, but we wonder what could have been if Jefferson had lost another spot, or if Belichick had traded to get him.