Patriots’ loss to the Vikings was a statistical anomaly

The Patriots seemed to hit a lot of checkpoints on Thanksgiving, but still lost because of errors in other areas.

Bill Belichick's Patriots squad was in a spot to win on Thanksgiving, but too many errors cost them the game. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

If the Patriots’ Thanksgiving loss to the Vikings was unusual to you, well that’s because it was.

New England’s 33-26 loss was a statistical anomaly as the Patriots were the first team during the Super Bowl era to score at least 25 points, have at least 400 yards of total offense while outgaining their opponent, complete at least 70 percent of their passes, commit fewer than 60 penalty yards, have no turnovers, and not miss a field goal in a game and lose, according to OptaStats. Teams that had committed all those things in a game were previously 170-0.

There are several oddities that might explain why the Patriots still ended up losing despite history saying they should’ve won. They allowed a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown after scoring a touchdown themselves in the third quarter.


The Patriots also went 0-for-3 in red zone chances against the team that had the worst red zone defense in the league entering Week 12. However, in one of those chances, the Patriots looked like they scored a touchdown when it was originally ruled that Hunter Henry made a reception at the goal line in the third quarter. But a replay review wiped off the reception, and thus the touchdown, because it was determined Henry didn’t have full control of the ball through the process of making the catch.

Another one of those missed red zone chances came in part because the Patriots ran out of time in the first half. They might not have run out of time though if Henry got out of bounds on a 22-yard reception and if Mac Jones threw the ball away instead of eating a sack, which caused the Patriots to burn their final two timeouts of the half.

While the Patriots didn’t have what might be viewed as a significant amount of penalty yardage, they also seemed to commit penalties at inopportune times. Matthew Judon had an offside penalty on a third-down play for the Vikings that made it easier for them to get the first down on what ended up being a touchdown drive for Minnesota in the first half.


Obviously, no penalty was more costly than the one rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. committed. Strong ran into the punter on fourth-and-3, giving the Vikings a first down and new life on the drive that they scored the game-winning touchdown on.

Beyond the missed opportunities and self-inflected mistakes, there were a couple of other unusual things for the Patriots in Thursday’s game. They ran the ball just 13 times, by far the fewest amount of rushing attempts they’ve had in a game this season. They lost the time of possession battle to Minnesota 36:17 to 23:43. Judon, who leads the league in sacks this season with 13, didn’t record a sack in a game for just the third time this season.

On the flip side, it was Jones’s best game of the season — at least statistically. The struggling second-year quarterback threw for a career-high 382 yards and had two touchdown passes with no interceptions, giving him a season-best 119.8 passer rating.

When you put all of those things together, it makes it understandable as to why Judon felt the way that he did following the loss.

“I think that a couple calls, a couple plays and it’s going the other way,” Judon said. “But it wasn’t our night tonight. I don’t think we’re far off. I don’t think that team handled us.


“I just think it was just a couple calls, a couple plays, a couple this, and a couple that and it could’ve been a different game. But we didn’t make those plays. So, we’ve got to go on film and watch them and correct ourselves.”

Judson also said he was feeling more frustrated than disappointed with the loss.

“We’ve got to play better on defense, come up with some of those stops,” Judon said. “Going down the stretch, we can’t let them score on back-to-back drives, especially in a game like that. We’re not disappointed. We’re going to bind together. We’re going to keep coming. But we’re just a little frustrated.”

No matter how you slice it up though, Thursday’s game will still count as a loss to the Patriots’ record — which is now 6-5. New England’s mostly got tough tests from here on out too, with its Week 13 matchup against the Buffalo Bills just one of the four remaining games it has against teams in playoff contention with six games total left.


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