If Marcus Jones hadn't returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown with five seconds remaining in regulation last week, the New England Patriots may have found themselves in the same salty mood the Minnesota Vikings bring into their holiday meeting.
The Vikings (8-2) followed an overtime win overAFC heavyweight Buffalo with a 40-3 basting at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, leading them to eagerly shuffle into Week 12 preparation and a primetime date with the Patriots (6-4).
Despite recording just 10 points, New England still managed to pull off a 10-3 win over the Jets. The Patriots' defense was suffocating, holding New York to just 2 yards total offense in the second half and 103 for the game.
New England has stirred up a winning recipe on defense. The Patriots allowed six points and 224 yards in the past two games, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows the Vikings pose a serious threat to that success.
"They're really good," Belichick said. "It starts with (Kirk) Cousins, outstanding quarterback, has had tremendous production throughout his career. Again, this year (Dalvin) Cook's one of the top running backs in the league. They've got a wealth of talent at the skill positions and a lot of guys to stop. So yeah, they're as explosive as anybody we've seen."
Belichick credits a man he once interrogated in a job interview, Minnesota first-year coach Kevin O'Connell. The former quarterback first met Belichick as a pro prospect and passed that interview -- he was drafted by New England in 2008.
"He's done a heck of a job and climbed through the coaching ranks quickly," Belichick said of O'Connell. "Based on the way the Vikings are playing this year, you could see why he's done it. He's done a great job."
Minnesota converted just 1 of 11 third-down attempts and gained 183 total yards against the Cowboys. Cousins threw for 105 yards, wide receiver Justin Jefferson managed three receptions for 33 yards and Cook added 72 on the ground.
The Vikings' offensive line, shuffled with left tackle Christian Darrisaw (concussion) exiting in the second quarter, couldn't stop the Dallas pash rush and surrendered seven sacks. Darrisaw had a documented concussion in Week 10 before being cleared to play Dallas. He was already ruled out for Week 12.
"We've got to learn from this," O'Connell said. "We've got to use this as an opportunity to grow as a football team and handle adversity the right way."
Although it's a short week, the Vikings are embracing it, and are looking forward to getting back out on the field to avenge the ugly loss against the Cowboys.
"We don't like what happened (Sunday), but we have a chance to move on faster than normal," Jefferson said. "We don't have time to really think about the loss (or) have time to figure out what was going on. It's a quick turnaround.
"We're so glad that we can play Thursday, get this loss out of our minds and get back to where we would like to be."
Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. missed Monday's practice with a knee injury and linebacker Za'Darius Smith (knee) was limited.
Center David Andrews (thigh) missed the Patriots' practice on Monday. Linebacker Josh Uche (hamstring), receiver DeVante Parker (knee), offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (foot) and Jones (ankle) were limited participants.
--Field Level Media