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 affair 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 attack. Kirk Cousins completed 30 of his 37 attempts for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Superstar wideout Justin Jefferson did most of the damage with nine catches for 139 yards and a TD.
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The defense and special teams, along with costly penalties and a few controversial calls, spoiled an encouraging showing 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 a thrilling Thanksgiving shootout, but a disappointing result for New England.
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Penalties prove costly
Our Tom E. Curran said it best: "The Patriots' penchant for penalties is eye-popping to behold."
Penalties have been a problem for New England all season long and they once again were a difference-maker in Thursday's defeat. The Patriots were penalized six times for 55 yards.
Myles Bryant was flagged for a personal foul after a hit on Vikings wideout Adam Thielen. Jonathan Jones had two facemask penalties. Pierre Strong ran into the punter to continue a Minnesota drive that ended up turning into the game-winning TD.
Those types of plays usually are uncharacteristic for a Bill Belichick-coached team, but they have dragged the Patriots down throughout the 2022 campaign. On Thursday, you certainly could make a case it was the reason they came up short.
Mac Jones has his best game of 2022
Making the loss sting even more for the Patriots is it wasted Jones' best game of the season thus far, and arguably his best as a pro.
The Patriots' second-year quarterback showed some flashes last Sunday vs. the New York Jets, but he still couldn't find the end zone in the 10-3 win. He wasted no time putting points on the board on Thursday night.
Jones quickly responded to the Vikings' opening-drive touchdown with a TD of his own, a 34-yarder to Nelson Agholor. It marked 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 tight end Hunter Henry.
Despite David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn's absences, the Patriots offensive line did its part for the majority of the night 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 coming in the game's final moments. It's no surprise that an improved o-line made Jones look like his 2021 self.
If not for a controversial overturned call on what appeared to be a second Henry TD, Jones would have three for the game and potentially a different end result.
Despite the loss, Jones can hang his hat on his most impressive stat line of the season to this point. He finished 28-of-39 for a career-high 382 yards, two TDs, zero interceptions and a 119.8 quarterback rating. He'll hope to stay hot next Thursday in a big divisional matchup vs. the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.
Justin Jefferson is a cheat code
You knew that already, but it's worth reiterating. Jefferson put on a show on national television Thursday night.
The usually-stout Patriots defense had no answer for the Vikings' superstar wideout 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 the most receiving yards in the first three seasons of an NFL career.
Jefferson flashed his big-play ability with a handful of ridiculous grabs, including this one:
And another one that set up the Vikings' go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings selected Jefferson at No. 22 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, one spot ahead of the Patriots. New England traded down from that No. 23 pick, but we can't help but wonder what could have been if Jefferson fell one more spot, or if Belichick traded up to get him.