The Minnesota Vikings bounced back in the biggest of ways on Thanksgiving night by beating the New England Patriots 33-26.
The game was a tremendous back-and-forth contest with all 12 scores either tying the game or having one team take the lead. Both quarterbacks were dealing and the offensive lines protected their quarterbacks well for the majority of the game.
The game was excellent and the performances from the Vikings were mostly positive as the studs outnumbered the duds two to one.
Stud: Kirk Cousins
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball against the New England Patriots during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Listen, we all know that Cousins struggles in primetime and he threw a rough interception in the first half. However, he was really good outside of that on Thursday night. Thanksgiving Kirk Cousins is a different beast. He was seeing the field really well and making some tremendous throws to Justin Jefferson in tight windows that would be posted all over social media if it were other quarterbacks. Thanksgiving Kirk Cousins overpowered primetime Kirk Cousins this Thursday night.
Dud: Ed Donatell
Sep 30, 2022; Thundridge, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell during practice at Hanbury Manor. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings’ defense was not very good on Sunday and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is mostly to blame. Yes, he was short-handed without Dalvin Tomlinson and three of his top five cornerbacks, but the play-calling and execution were objectively bad. The pass rush was non-existent and there were no adjustments to help generate one. The Vikings need to have some form of pass rush for this defense to work and they didn’t do a good enough job.
Stud: Justin Jefferson
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a first down against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
What else can we say about the greatness of Justin Jefferson that hasn’t already been said. He broke another NFL record with the most receiving yards in the first three seasons of a career, passing Randy Moss’ mark of 4,163 and he extended his NFL record with his 21st 100+ yard receiving game in that same time span. When the Vikings needed a big play, Jefferson came through with flying colors and continues to make his mark as the best wide receiver in the National Football League.
Dud: Vikings pass rush
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates with linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) after Hunter sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter during their football game Sunday, September 11, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Min. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
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Where was the pass rush all game? With two of the best edge rushers in the league in Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, they weren’t able to do much of anything in getting to the quarterback. Mac Jones had his best game of the season and carved up the Vikings’ defense all night. Hunter finally got some pressure right before the two-minute warning and sacked Jones in a big spot, as well as Ross Blacklock getting his first sack as a Vikings on the final drive. Overall, they needed the defensive line to step up with three cornerbacks out and they mostly failed to deliver.
Stud: Kene Nwangwu
The Vikings haven’t had an explosive return in the kicking game, with their long being a paltry 39-yarder earlier in the season. Nwangwu has made a habit of trying to make a big return happen and he finally was able to by taking a return up the right sideline and reading his blocks really well for a 97 yard touchdown return.
Stud: Adam Thielen
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) makes a touchdown reception against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Jefferson had a big day and Thielen had one of his best on the season as well. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone and had a total of nine catches for 61 yards. Thielen was the safety valve for Cousins and the Vikings needed his performance on Thursday night.