The New England Patriots had opportunities to win on Thanksgiving night, but they squandered a winnable Week 12 game. The offense moved the ball but couldn’t take advantage of their trips to the red zone. The special teams’ coverage had a breakdown at a key point in the second half, which resulted in a 97-yard kickoff return for the Minnesota Vikings.
Perhaps the biggest issue for the Patriots was the fact that their defense couldn’t contain the high-powered Minnesota Vikings attack. Even when they did, a costly miscue by rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. was one of what Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian described as a “stupid mistake” that cost New England the game.
“Rookie Pierre Strong ran into the punter on a 4th-and-3 to give the Vikings another set of downs with the five-yard penalty, which led to the winning score four plays later,” Guregian wrote. “Belichick really tore into Strong on the sideline after that. He knew what giving the Vikings offense meant. His defense struggled all night to contain Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, et al. But giving them another chance after you finally forced them to punt? That was deadly, and Belichick knew it.”
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had all day to throw most of the night, and the Patriots secondary was having the damnedest time covering Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and TJ Hockenson. With New England’s offense finally showing some life, the stop the defense thought it had could have been a tipping point in the game for the Patriots. Strong’s penalty wiped out the effort. Moments later, Cousins hit Jefferson on a deep vertical look between two defenders. Minnesota would score the go-ahead TD and final points of the game with the extra opportunity.
Guregian Isn’t the Only One Calling Pierre Strong Out
Patriots.com’s Evan Lazar chimed in with similar sentiments about Strong’s error. However, some of Lazar’s criticism might have been aimed at Belichick’s coaching decision to “aggressively” rush the punter in the situation.
He also noted that veteran cornerback Jonathon Jones was the man in Strong’s position when the Patriots used this look to get a blocked punt against the Indianapolis Colts. Could that have made a difference?
It’s also worth noting Jones didn’t have the most disciplined night himself. He had two personal foul penalties in the game, so it’s clear Strong wasn’t the only player making mistakes that hurt his team.
Around the NFL: Jets Gunning for Justin Fields
The New York Jets will take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday and that may mean Robert Saleh and company will have to try to do what the Patriots couldn’t back in Week 7: Contain Justin Fields.
Behind Fields’ dual-threat mastery, the Bears defeated the Patriots 33-14 in Foxborough. Fields had 179 yards passing with a TD and 82 yards rushing with another score on the ground. The game was the jumpoff to a pretty amazing run for Fields that has seen him account for 15 TDs and just four interceptions over the past five games. Unfortunately for the Bears, Fields suffered a shoulder injury in the team’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and he may not be available for the game.
Saleh doesn’t appear to be worried a ton about who takes the field for the Bears at quarterback. According to the video in the tweet below from Heavy’s Paul Esden Jr., the game plan will be the same.
Sounds like a good plan, but hitting Bears backup Trevor Siemian is a lot easier than hitting Fields. The Patriots learned that firsthand.