The Minnesota Vikings comeback from a 10-0 deficit felt triumphant.
Then the New England Patriots answered. Quickly and convincingly.
Tom Brady led a swift touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter and another to start the fourth to put away the Vikings, who were looking to spring a rare road upset of the Patriots. Kirk Cousins threw two late interceptions to dispel any hope of a comeback as Minnesota lost 24-10.
With top corner Xavier Rhodes’ reps reduced due to a hamstring injury and fellow starter Trae Waynes exiting in the first half with a concussion, the Vikings were often left with rookie Holton Hill and little-used defensive back Marcus Sherels at corner against the surgical Tom Brady. He promptly led a four play, 75-yard touchdown drive after the Vikings had tied the game at 10 in the third quarter, hitting Josh Gordon for a 24-yard touchdown. Following a Vikings three-and-out, Brady took the Patriots six plays, 50 yards as fullback James Develin plunged across for his second touchdown of the day to put the game virtually out of reach.
Ten plays, two touchdowns and a 24-10 deficit.
The sudden turn of events seemed to unravel the Vikings. Defensive players were seen bickering with each other off the field following Gordon’s touchdown, Stefon Diggs was captured on camera seemingly yelling to be given the ball, and Adam Thielen appeared to jaw with Bill Belichick as the coach pondered a fourth quarter challenge.
With all that was at stake for the Vikings Sunday — a chance to turn heads with a defining win and better their playoff positioning — it’s no surprise that emotions bubbled to the surface. They’ve struggled all season to beat winning teams. First the Rams, then the Saints and Bears, and now the Patriots.
The Vikings clawed back in the game after a lethargic start. New England began the game with a quick defensive stop and a subsequent touchdown drive that included plays of 13, 18, 24, 15 and 15 yards in succession.
Held scoreless on their first four drives, the game started resembling the loss at Chicago two weeks ago for the Vikings offense, but Kirk Cousins led a two-minute drill for a touchdown just before halftime that made it a 10-7 game with a touchdown pass to Thielen. The momentum swung in the Vikings favor just moments before as Mike Zimmer challenged the spot of a Rob Gronkowski catch to nullify a Patriots first down.
Another challenge in the third quarter also went the Vikings’ way as Belichick’s challenge of Kyle Rudolph’s first-down catch failed, allowing the Vikings to continue a drive that would result in a game-tying field goal.
That’s where the positives ended for Minnesota.
Both kickers missed field goals in the game as well. For Minnesota’s Dan Bailey, who hooked a 48-yarder left, it was his sixth miss of the season, a career high. Special teams continue to be a concern.
Ultimately, the Vikings passing game didn’t produce enough while the run game was remarkably good in small doses — Minnesota finished with 13 carries for 95 yards. But the Vikings were 3 for 12 on third down and Cousins was held to 4.6 yards per pass attempt.
Now the pressure is on next Monday as the Vikings face a must win against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
Stay tuned for more coverage from Gillette Stadium.