In a cruel twist, the Patriots offense came to play, but the defense did not


The New England defense, so often its saving grace during the team’s modest and now interrupted three-game winning streak, couldn’t stop when it needed to.

Adam Thielen beat the Patriots’ Jalen Mills for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, giving the Vikings a 33-26 lead. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to highlights, stats and storylines from the Patriots’ last game. . .

The Patriots’ 33-26 loss to the Vikings on Sunday night was something of a reversal of their standard modus operandi this season.

The offense, so often a stagnant and uninspired unit, delivered a performance that would have brought victory on most nights. Mac Jones completed 28 of 39 passes for 382 yards and two touchdowns, by far the best performance of his sophomore season. The makeshift offensive line, which was without David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn, held off the Vikings pass rush. There were frustrations – too often kicker Nick Folk (four field goals) was called upon to save blocked drives – but in the end, it has to be seen as an encouraging offensive performance to build on.

Unfortunately, the Patriots defense, so often its saving grace during its modest and now broken three-game winning streak, couldn’t stop when it needed to. They allowed 33 points, tied for second most they gave up all season, while Vikings world wide receiver Justin Jefferson delivered a big play whenever the moment called for it. The Patriots still have a defense to believe in — it’s not The Boogeymen Part II — but it wasn’t their greatest night.

A few more thoughts, after immediate consideration. . .

In a cruel twist, the Patriots offense came to play, but the defense did not
Nelson Agholor beat Minnesota’s Camryn Bynum for his first-quarter touchdown. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Three players who were worth watching

Suggested players in the unconventional preview: Justin Jefferson, Matthew Judon, Dalvin Cook.

Justin Jefferson: How ridiculously good is this guy? You notice he missed nine catches for 139 yards and a touchdown on the Patriots, and two thoughts immediately come to mind: Wow, it actually looked like he had twice as many yards, and, you know, the Patriots actually didn’t do a terrible job defending him. They tried to double-cross him, the ultimate sign of respect from Bill Belichick, who had no other way to attempt to remove the Vikings’ most dangerous weapon. But that didn’t help much, especially when the Vikings played at a fast pace to limit opportunities to get extra defensive backs on the pitch. Jefferson scored the first touchdown of the game on a 6-yard drive on the Vikings’ opening possession. His best game? Although he had highlights everywhere, probably a 37-yard jump catch with Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty covering in the second quarter. The attention he attracts makes life much easier for his fellow pass catchers. Wide receiver Adam Thielen and tight end TJ Hockenson combined for 14 catches, 104 yards and two touchdowns. I’m convinced: Jefferson is the No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL.

Nelson Agholor: Really, we could have named several Patriots pass catchers in this place. Six players have had at least three catches and five – Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Henry, Rhamondre Stevenson and DeVante Parker – have compiled at least 62 yards through the air. But Agholor gets the go-ahead because he interfered on the first drive when Meyers went off briefly with what appeared to be a shoulder injury and caught a 34-yard TD strike from Jones to tie the game at 7. Agholor’s catch, one of his six-of-eight targets for 65 yards, gave the Patriots — and it’s crazy it took so long — their first first-quarter touchdown this season. Alas, he didn’t quite find Jones’ fourth shot of desperation on the Patriots’ penultimate offensive possession.

Josh Uche: The Patriots entered the game with the second-most sacks in the league (36), but their vaunted passing rush was mostly rumored against a Vikings line that wasn’t supposed to be very resilient. Judon has gone bagless for only the third time this season, and the Patriots have only managed one as a team. It came courtesy of Uche, his fifth in the last four games, and it was a huge game right now. In the first slam of the fourth quarter, he buried Kirk Cousins ​​for a 9-yard loss on second and 8 from deep in New England territory. The Vikings ended up having to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Greg Joseph to tie the game at 26.

In a cruel twist, the Patriots offense came to play, but the defense did not
Kene Nwangwu’s 97-yard kickoff return for a third-quarter touchdown was an all-too-common breakdown of special teams on Thursday. MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Game grievance

In addition to having played in some ways, the Patriots deserve to be enlightened by Belichick in their next cinema session. They made all sorts of mistakes, from Jonathan Jones’ two face mask penalties, to their lost containment on Kene Nwangwu’s 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to tie the score at 23 in the third quarter, having to settle for field goals in situations where they started with great field position, especially after Jones returned his 55-yard interception to the Vikings’ 17 in the first quarter. But the biggest mistake, bar none, was rookie Pierre Strong who hit the punter fourth-and-third of the Vikings’ 36 with 11:04 left in the game. Strong gave the Vikings a first try and restored their momentum. Three plays later, Thielen had a touchdown – for the Vikings, the winner. Just totally inexcusable play in this situation.

Three scribbled notes in the margin

Predicted score: Patriots 23, Vikings 20

Final score: Vikings 33, Patriots 26

Hockenson was apparently easier to stop when he was with the Lions. Kyle Dugger and his fellow safety held the talented tight end to a catch for six yards in Week 6. Dealed to the Vikings before the trade deadline, Hockenson took advantage of his recovery chance, beating Dugger, who went down on play action, for a touchdown while making five catches for 43 yards this time around. . . It wasn’t a bad night for one of the Patriots tight ends, either. Henry rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown on the first set of the second half, giving the Patriots a temporary 23-16 lead. He nearly had a second TD caught later in the third quarter, making a leaping grab on the goal line, but was knocked down on review after it appeared the ball had hit the ground before he landed it. completely secure. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal and a 26-23 lead. . . All I will say about the NBC show is this: Cris Collinsworth is no longer allowed to have Thanksgiving every year.


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