The Minnesota Vikings have little time to brood over their embarrassing debacle against the Dallas Cowboys. On Thanksgiving Day, they take the field at US Bank Stadium again, hoping to exercise the demons of this past Sunday.
Their opponents in front of the primetime cameras on Thursday night are the New England Patriots, another team with playoff football on their minds, who are in a highly competitive division. The Patriots also possess another formidable defense, but the good news is they don’t have the dynamic offense of the Cowboys.
If the Vikings are to bounce back with a win, here are 3 players to watch who need to play a significant role.
We all know the narrative. Kirk Cousins can’t win in primetime. Of course, that’s not true. Cousins has several primetime wins under his belt, and it’s a particularly lousy record on Monday nights that let him down. On Thursdays, Cousins has a 3-5 record overall and a 2-1 record winning the last two as a Viking.
After a thoroughly miserable time against the Cowboys, the Vikings offense needs to regroup and find a way to move the ball against another excellent defense. Eyes will be on the Vikings quarterback to get his offense going, but it’s not all on his shoulders. There was a failure to make in-game adjustments by the Vikings coaching staff. At the same time, the offensive line could not protect their quarterback.
The Vikings will be without stud left tackle Christian Darrisaw, so they will need a game plan for how they come without him. Getting the ball out quickly would be the obvious answer, as it seems likely time in the pocket will once again be a premium. The Vikings offense must be sharp against the Patriots, starting with number eight.
It wasn’t a debut in front of the home fans to remember for T.J. Hockenson. The tight end did lead the team in receptions (5) and receiving yards (34), but those numbers aren’t great. Hockenson did have the chance for the best possible start. However, a dropped catch in the endzone will be the abiding memory of his debut at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Hockenson will have a significant role for the Vikings to succeed with a quick passing game. Whether with screens or quick passes in the middle of the field, the Vikings will need a big performance from their new tight end.
New England games tend to be close, low-scoring, hard-fought battles. There was a brief period with Bailey Zappe at quarterback where life got a bit more exciting for the Patriots. Instead of keeping that rolling, Bill Belichick brought Mac Jones back in. With the Patriots leaning on their defense and trying to score enough points to win, depending heavily on their run game and asking their quarterback to manage the game.
Of course, stopping the run will be necessary for the Vikings defense. However, getting at the Patriots QB is where they can win the game. So far this season, Jones has thrown more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (4). Creating turnovers is where the Vikings can get the upper hand, but New England will have the same idea. Between them, they have two of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
Za’Darius Smith is once again on the injury report due to his knee. This has been going on for several weeks, and Smith always plays. However, seeing the edge rusher at 100% would be nice. He’s been formidable despite being banged up, and the Vikings need another big game from number 55.