FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Just when the Vikings made it interesting, the Patriots made it uninteresting in a hurry in what became a 24-10 New England victory.
The Vikings fell to 6-5-1 with four games to play.
Pregame question: Would the Vikings be able to handle the Patriots mystique?
The Patriots have enjoyed sustained success, from five Super Bowl titles with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who rarely lose at home in December (33-4 after Sunday's win).
After allowing a touchdown drive on the Patriots first possession, the Vikings surrendered just a field goal in the second quarter and rallied with a touchdown of their own before halftime.
The Vikings overcame a bad start and showed they weren't going to be enveloped by the Patriots mystique on a rainy evening, but the problems were familiar occurrences in 2018: making too many mistakes and missing limited opportunities against a good team.
A simple swing pass from Kirk Cousins to Dalvin Cook, which has resulted in nice, safe gains in past games, was off the mark on Minnesota's first snap. Cook gained 2 on his first carry, and the Vikings failed to convert a third-and-8.
The Patriots had a false start on their first offensive snap and an incompletion, but they overcame a second-and-15 with a 13-yard pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman and an 18-yard gain on a pass to Chris Hogan, followed by gains of 24 and 15 on short passes to Cordarrelle Patterson and Rex Burkhead.
Edelman then rushed for 15 two plays before James Develin powered in for the first of two short touchdowns.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer:
"I just feel like we didn't start out very good; they came out and scored on us defensively, and we went three-and-out on offense, I believe," Zimmer said. "The start of the game was more disappointing. And then we settled down and started playing OK. But [the Patriots defense] did a nice job tonight."
Anthony Barr on the Patriots getting the ball to the perimeter:
"That was kind of their game plan, to get us off balance, kind of some stuff that they unconventionally do," Barr said. "We got a lot of new looks tonight and adjusted pretty well. I don't think the new looks were the problem. We were the problem. We beat ourselves in a couple of situations."
Minnesota adjusted after the first touchdown and kept its defense strong early in the third quarter, giving the offense the ball with 6:21 left in the period and a 10-7 deficit.
A 13-yard rush by Dalvin Cook was negated by a holding penalty against Tom Compton, but Kirk Cousins completed three consecutive passes to Aldrick Robinson for a fresh set of downs. A fourth target in a row was incomplete, however, and Cousins followed with passes to Stefon Diggs for 5 and Kyle Rudolph for 5 more to the New England 40.
Cook then busted free for an 18-yard run to the 22.
Cousins then aimed for the end zone on a pass to Thielen against single coverage that was incomplete. Latavius Murray rushed for 1, and Cousins tried to hit Robinson on a similar shot as the pass to Thielen. The Vikings receivers got up wanting flags for pass interference, and Minnesota settled for tying the game at 10 with 2:20 remaining.
Cousins on what he saw before attempting the passes to Robinson and Thielen:
"They had lower safeties playing in a Quarters look, so they're doubling Adam, so we had 1-on-1 to the outside to Aldrick on one of them, and the other one, Adam was 1-on-1, so we wanted to give him an opportunity there and get a chance to go over the top a little bit," Cousins said. "Would have loved to hit one of those, but we just didn't."
Thielen on not drawing a flag:
"Obviously those are plays that could go either way, so yeah, as a competitor you want that call, but at the same time, it could have gone both ways. I understand the ref doing what he did, but as a competitor, you're competing, you want to catch the ball, first of all. And when you don't have the opportunity to try to catch the ball, usually you want the flag. But that's part of football."
New England clapped back hard, with Josh Gordon breaking a tackle by Marcus Sherels (Trae Waynes left the game early with a concussion and Xavier Rhodes was in and out because of a hamstring injury).
The play went for a gain of 24 and was followed by a 15-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski and a 12-yard run by James White before Gordon capitalized on a misplay by the Vikings and found plenty of space on a 24-yard touchdown.
Another three-and-punt, combined with a 23-yard punt return by Edelman and a crisp, 50-yard touchdown drive, gave the Patriots a two-score lead with less than 11 minutes to go.
Stephen Weatherly on mistakes during the drive capped by Gordon:
"We weren't sticking to our keys and doing what we needed to do on those plays," Weatherly said. "They hit us quick. We needed to come back and respond, and we would have still been in it. We had a chance there, but we couldn't take advantage."
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
Barr on not coming through in the clutch:
"We played good for the most part. Those two series, there were missed tackles; I can't really think of what else, and then they had the ball at the 50 and went down and scored on the next drive. We did a good job, we just didn't do good enough," Barr said. "There are certain situations where we've got to do better. It was 10-10, we've got to be able to get off the field and give our offense the ball back. We weren't able to do that. We were good for the most part, but when we needed it the most, we weren't."
Zimmer on his view of the Vikings with four games remaining:
"I feel fine about my team," Zimmer said. "I think we continue to learn a lot about ourselves; I think we've got a good football team. We just have to play better than we did tonight. This one game won't define us. We still have four games left. The season's still in front of us, whatever we want to do."