Four days after getting pummeled by the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings bounced back in a big way, earning a 33-26 victory over the New England Patriots Thanksgiving night.
Vikes coach Kevin O'Connell said the ability to wipe away the bitter taste of Sunday's 40-3 loss and earn a win speaks volumes about his 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 show up tonight on a mission to try and play a really good football team and try to get a win," the coach said, via the team's official transcript. "I could not be more proud of my football team and our staff and all that goes into it as an organization. Really excited and happy. Feel very fortunate, including being very thankful, to be the head coach of this team and that locker room in there."
After looking inept on Sunday, all three phases played well Thursday for Minnesota.
Justin Jefferson scorched the Patriots' defense, proving uncoverable as he went for 139 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. Kirk Cousins bounced back from an early interception and played exceptionally, completing 81.1 percent of his passes for 299 yards and three TDs against a previously stingy Pats D. A Vikings offensive line missing its left tackle gave up just one sack on the night.
The defense swarmed late, sacking Mac Jones on the final two drives to destroy any attempt at a comeback.
And special teams added a massive kick return TD from Kene Nwangwu that swung momentum.
"This was a good football team we played tonight. They made it hard for us," Cousins said. "What I think has been unique about our journey this season has just been the team factor. We needed a kickoff return tonight, we've needed interceptions, fumble recoveries, pass-rush, run game, pass game. There's just been a lot of contributions. For us to win it would seem we really do need the whole team to contribute. That's what I think has been a unique theme to this year, is we win as a team and really lean on all three phases."
The win moved the Vikings to 9-2, already on the doorstep of clinching the NFC North division. The bounce-back from blowout to victory displayed mettle from O'Connell's team that will serve well come January.
"My goal here is to have our organization ready to put it all together, even when people don't give us a chance or when adversity hits, that's when I happen to believe the best parts of our team come out," O'Connell said. "I think that will continue to serve us well as we continue to improve as a football team this year."