Vikings bounce back to defeat Patriots 33-26 in first home Thanksgiving game

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) is face masked by New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) on a pass play in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) is tackled by New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) sees a little daylight on this run against the New England Patriots in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) falls into the end zone pursued by New England Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai (48) in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Patriots in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov. 24, 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) calls a play at the line against New England in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws on the run as New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) gives chase in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) is tackled by New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) after a catch in the first quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) turns up field after a catch as he is pursued by New England Patriots linebacker Jack Jones (13) in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov. 24, 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) signals first down after a catch against New England in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) leaps high to catch the quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) pass in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) hits the hole for a 6 yard gain against New England in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) races to the sidelines in action against the New England Patriots in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) changes direction against New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills (2) in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) watches his successful 30 yard field goal against New England in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) disrupts a pass meant for New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) in the second quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

A pair of Viking fans cheer as the Vikings take to the field during warm-ups before the start of a NFL football game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a ball during warm ups before the start of a NFL football game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

A family of Viking fans wear dinner on their heads before the start of a NFL football game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) outruns Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) for a touchdown in the third quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings kick returner Kene Nwangwu (26) runs back a New England Patriots kickoff for a 97 yard touchdown in the third quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) runs back a New England Patriots kick off for a 97 yard touchdown in the third quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings kick returner Kene Nwangwu (26) is hugged by Nick Muse (34) after Nwangwu’s 97-yard touchdown kick off return against New England in the third quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Reagor (5) looks to stiff arm New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) after a catch in the third quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) is hit in the helmet by the helmet of New England Patriots cornerback Myles Bryant (27) resulting in a unsportsman like conduct penalty on Bryant in the third quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) is congratulated by holder Ryan Wright (14) after a 25 yard field goal against New England in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

New England Patriots Pierre Strong Jr. (35) runs into Minnesota Vikings punter Ryan Wright (14) resulting in a penalty and a Minnesota 1st down in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) changes direction as New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills (2) and linebacker Raekwon McMillan (50) look to stop him in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) pulls down a big catch in front of New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) smiles to the crowd after scoring a touchdown against New England in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov. 24, 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Ross Blacklock (96) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) on the one yard line in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov., 24 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

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The Vikings vowed to bounce back after an humiliating loss, and that’s just what they did.

In the first NFL game on Thanksgiving in Minnesota, the Vikings defeated the New England Patriots 33-26 on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The win came four days after an ugly 40-3 loss to the Cowboys, Minnesota’s worst home loss in 59 years. Wide receiver Adam Thielen said how the Vikings looked against the Patriots would be a test of the team’s “character.”

“Four days after being here with a pretty dejected feeling and asking our team to respond and our coaches to respond and we show up on a mission to try and play a really good football team and try to get a win,” said Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. “I cannot be more proud of our football team and our staff. … I’m really excited and happy.”

The Vikings continued to have some issues on defense, but they got big plays on offense and on special teams to raise their record to 9-2, the second-best in the NFL.

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had nine catches for 139 yards and a touchdown and broke Minnesota hall of famer Randy Moss’ NFL record for most yards receiving in a player’s first three seasons with 4,248. Jefferson entered the game with 4,109 yards and broke Moss’ mark of 4,163 in the second quarter with a 37-yard grab.

“It means a lot,” Jefferson said. “It means that my course of reaching the hall of fame is near. But I’m just going to keep working, doing whatever it takes to make plays for this team.”

Most of all, Jefferson was happy that he got the record in a win and that the Vikings made up for the loss to the Cowboys.

“A lot of determination,” he said. “I mean, we didn’t like getting blown out like that, especially at home. So just bouncing back. Short week. Thursday night. No better way to win it.

In the third quarter, Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, his third return for a TD in his two-year career. Last season, he had returns for touchdowns of 98 yards at Baltimore and 99 at San Francisco.

Nwangwu’s return tied the score 23-23 after the Patriots had taken a 23-16 lead, their biggest of the game.

The Patriots led 26-23 entering the fourth quarter, but the Vikings got a 36-yard field goal by Greg Joseph early in the quarter to tie the score 26-26. Kirk Cousins threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Thielen with 9:34 left in the game to give Minnesota the lead for good at 33-26.

“Another great team win,” Cousins said. “Just so many people to grateful for in the way they contributed. Obviously, the kickoff return. … Found a way to get more explosive plays.”

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) smiles to the crowd after scoring a touchdown against New England in the fourth quarter of a NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Thursday Nov. 24, 2022. The Vikings beat the Patriots, 33-26. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

The drive for Thielen’s touchdown was kept alive by a running-into-the kicker penalty against New England’s Pierre Strong Jr. on punter Ryan Wright when the Vikings faced fourth and 3 at the Minnesota 36 with 11:04 left in the game.

The Patriots (6-5) were much more undisciplined than normal under legendary coach Bill Belichick. They had six penalties for 55 yards including an ugly unnecessary roughness penalty late in the third quarter when New England defensive back Myles Bryant gave Thielen a cheap shot.

Belichick was going against first-year Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell for the first time. O’Connell was a New England backup quarterback under Belichick in 2008.

“This one means a whole heck of a lot because I have so much respect for that organization and and Coach Belichick,” O’Connell said.

Cousins completed 30 of 37 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns on a night that the Vikings had just 57 yards rushing. Most importantly, after being sacked seven times against the Cowboys, the most in 11-year career, Cousins was sacked just once Thursday.

“We had a real plan, kind of knowing where we’d be at,” O’Connell said. “We wanted to try to run the football. it’s a tough group to run it against, … But we were able to churn out runs to then allow us to activate some play passes.”

New England quarterback Mac Jones completed 26 of 37  passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots were potent on offense after entering the game ranked just 25th in the NFL in total offense.

The Patriots outgained the Vikings 409 to 358 yards, but Minnesota’s defense made timely plays when needed. That included the Vikings sacking Jones three times, including a nine-yard dump by Danielle Hunter when the Patriots had third-and-7 at the Minnesota w30 with 2:15 left and trained 33-26. Jones then throw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-16 at the Vikings 39, which effectively ended the game.

Jones looked to have a third touchdown pass when he hit tight end Hunter Henry at the goal line midway through the third quarter from seven yards out. But after a touchdown was called, replay determined that the ball had hit the ground and the pass was incomplete.

“He was going to the ground, the ball ended up touching the ground and then he lost control of the ball in his hands.” NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson told a pool reporter.

Nick Folk then hit a 25-yard field goal to put the Patriots up 26-23 before the Vikings backed back to tie the score 26-26 on Joseph’s 36-yard field goal. Cousins then hit Thielen for the go-ahead score.

“We called that play like several times (before),” Cousins said. “We just didn’t get the look we wanted, so I just kept checking to something else. (O’Connell) called it again and we got the look.”

The Vikings wasted no time on the opening drive of the game in going 80 yards on eight plays, with Jefferson catching a 6-yard touchdown pass from Cousins. But the Patriots came right back to tie the score 7-7 on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Nelson Agholor.

The back-and-forth nature of the game continued after that. A 34-yard field goal by Folk late in the first quarter gave the Patriots a 10-7 lead, but the Vikings tied it 10-10 on a 30-yard boot by Joseph midway through the second quarter.

The Patriots then went up 13-10 on a 46-yard field goal by Folk before the Vikings took a 16-13 lead on a Cousins 1-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson with 1:30 left in the half. But the Patriots tied the score 16-16 on Folk’s 23-yard field goal with three seconds left in the first half.

The teams continued to pile up points in the third quarter. The Patriots took a 23-16 lead on Jones’ 37-yard touchdown pass to Hunter before Nwangwu tied the score 23-23 on his 97-yard return. Folk then put the Patriots back up 26-23 with his field following the touchdown to Henry that was called back.

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