New England quarterback Mac Jones was 28 of 39 for 382 yards with two touchdowns Thursday night against Minnesota, but the Patriots still suffered a costly 33-26 loss. Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

Mac Jones slammed his helmet down as he walked off the field after New England’s 33-26 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night.

Costly mistakes nullified his best passing game of the season and his frustration boiled over.

The Patriots could have and maybe should have been celebrating. If New England could have made a few more good plays or avoided a least one of the bad ones in its Thanksgiving night loss, it would have been a great night. The Patriots could have been getting on their plane home excited after strengthening their playoff position.

For three quarters, it was setting up to be exactly the sort of momentum-building victory that Jones and the team needed. Instead, they let a winnable game get away from them. In the very bunched-up back half of the AFC playoff picture, that could prove costly down the road.

Last week, the Patriots got an exciting finish to an otherwise hard-to-watch game. The New England special teams picked up for a brutal game by the offense to earn a 10-3 win over the Jets.

Thursday was almost exactly the opposite. A rough game by the special teams negated what was a very encouraging game for the offense. Key special teams breakdowns late proved crushing.


The Patriots allowed a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Pierre Strong was called for running into the Vikings’ punter. Instead of the Patriots getting the ball back, the penalty gave Minnesota a first down and new life.

Obviously, a blocked punt would have been helpful, but it wasn’t necessary. The Patriots just needed to get possession. If Strong had been nowhere near the punter, New England would have gotten the ball.

Instead, three plays later the Vikings scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Instead of a strong win over a good NFC team, the Patriots have another loss and a bigger hill to climb.

“We just had too many mistakes they took advantage of, and that really is the difference in a game,” Coach Bill Belichick said. “Could point to a lot of things, and any of them would have made a difference, but collectively we’ve just got to do a better job here and just perform a little bit better than we did tonight.”

Behind an offensive line missing two starters, Mac Jones was 28 of 39 for 382 yards with two touchdowns. It wasn’t perfect, obviously. He continues to take bad sacks and the offense remains inefficient in the red zone. But the performance should have been good enough to win.

Instead, the loss drastically cuts down New England’s margin for error in the last six games, which include four against teams – two against Buffalo and home games against Miami and Cincinnati – who are currently above them in the standings.


That’s either a blessing or a curse. The Patriots have more control over their destiny than most teams currently on the wrong side of the playoff bubble, but to use that control, they have to beat good teams, something they haven’t proven they can do consistently yet.

“Everybody is playing for something right now. We have a lot of teams left on our schedule that have a chance. … You have to be ready to go,” Devin McCourty said. “We have to find a way. Not to just play tough in these games and have a chance, we have to find a way to win these games. Make one extra play. That’s what we needed tonight.”

HUNTER HENRY was ruled on the field to have secured a tough catch at the goal line for what would have been a third-quarter touchdown to give the New England Patriots the lead late in the third quarter at Minnesota.

After a lengthy replay review, the call was overturned to an incomplete pass. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal – and didn’t score again in the 33-26 loss to the Vikings.

“They called what they called,” Henry said. “I believe I caught it, but they made a call. Just got to live with it.”

The officials, with referee Alex Kemp leading the group, conferred with the NFL during the review. The determination was that the ball touched the ground and Henry lost control.


“As he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball upon contacting the ground,” NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson told a pool reporter. “The term that’s commonly used is ‘surviving the ground’ – a lot of people refer to that. So, as he’s going to the ground, he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball when he does go to the ground.”

Henry appeared to have a hand under the ball when he hit the turf. The ball did come loose, but he held on and maintained possession. It was the temporary loss of control that led to the reversal.

“Well, if he had maintained control of the ball with two hands, even if the ball were to touch the ground, if you don’t lose control of the ball after it touches the ground, that would still be a catch,” Anderson said.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was in no mood to discuss the reversal in his postgame press conference.

“Why don’t you guys go to the officials with your pool reporter and ask them about the play, and let them explain it to you,” Belichick said.

Henry was more forthcoming about what the officials told him.


“They said it hit the ground, but my hand was under it,” said Henry, who had a touchdown catch earlier in the third quarter. “I believe my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball with hitting the ground. That’s what kind of caused it to jump up. Just got to live with it. They made the call.”

Said Vikings Coach Kevin O’Connell: “I thought for the most part we would either be looking at a fourth-and-inches or it was incomplete. They did a great job of communicating with me throughout that whole scenario, and it just ended up being overturned. I think it’s one of those things that could’ve gone a lot of different ways, but I was very happy that it went the way that it did.”

Henry’s non-catch ended a night of efficient offense for New England as the two teams traded blows on Thanksgiving night. After the reversal, the Patriots struggled to find the same success moving the ball.

New England went three-and-out on its next two drives, while Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson helped the Vikings secure another second-half comeback win.

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