MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, the latter a go-ahead score for Adam Thielen in the fourth quarter to push the Minnesota Vikings past the New England Patriots 33-26 on Thursday night.
Justin Jefferson had 139 yards and one of Cousins’ touchdown passes, providing just the clutch performance against a formidable defense the Vikings (9-2) needed to bounce back from a blowout loss to Dallas. That gave rookie coach Kevin O’Connell a win over Bill Belichick, who drafted him in 2008 with the Patriots.
Mac Jones passed for a career-high 382 yards and two scores to spark a straggling offense for the Patriots (6-5), but they ran out of steam in the end. Their fourth quarter included two three-and-out punts, a turnover on downs at the Minnesota 39, and a desperate last drive that went nowhere.
Jones found Hunter Henry for a 37-yard wide-open touchdown pass to start the second half for a 23–16 lead. Kene Nwangwu scored on a 97-yard kickoff return and hit right back for the Vikings.
Jones—who went 23 for 27 for a career-high completion percentage last week—looked to hit his tight end for a second score with a spinning catch on the goal line that was ruled an on-field touchdown. The replay reversal—Henry’s bottom hand appeared to be under the ball as it wobbled briefly—forced the Patriots to settle for Nick Folk’s fourth field goal of the game late in the third quarter.
A few minutes later, another important call went to the Vikings’ side when Pierre Strong Jr. was called because he ran into punter Ryan Wright. With another run of downs, Cousins and the Vikings drove onto the field for the deciding touchdown.
The Patriots allowed only three points in each of their last two games, bringing NFL sack leader Matt Judon to the stadium where the Vikings were decimated by Dallas just four days earlier, while Cousins grabbed a career-high seven sacks .
With standout left tackle Christian Darrisaw sidelined with a concussion, the Vikings gave backup Blake Brandel a lot of extra help 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 allowed in the previous two games combined.
Jefferson had his footprints all over this game from the start, as his 10-yard reception on an end zone crossing route capped off the opening drive. He made catch after improbable catch in tight cover, including a 36-yard grab on a go route just before being wedged in by Jones and Devin McCourty to set up Thielen’s touchdown.
Jefferson set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first three seasons to pass Randy Moss. Jefferson has broken the 100-yard mark in 21 of 44 career games.