The Patriots’ loss to the Vikings was a statistical anomaly


The Patriots appeared to hit a lot of checkpoints on Thanksgiving, but still lost due to mistakes in other areas.

Bill Belichick’s Patriots team was on track to win on Thanksgiving, but too many mistakes cost them the game. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

If the Patriots’ Thanksgiving loss to the Vikings was unusual for you, 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 outrunning their opponent , completing at least 70 percent of their passes, committing fewer than 60 penalty yards, having no turnovers, and not missing and losing a field goal in a game, according to OptaStats. Teams that committed all those things in a game were more likely to be 170-0.

There are several quirks that could explain why the Patriots still lost despite history saying they should have won. They allowed a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown after scoring a touchdown of their own in the third quarter.

The Patriots also went 0-for-3 in red zone opportunities against the team with the worst red zone defense in the league going into Week 12. In one of those opportunities, however, the Patriots looked like they had a touchdown scored when it originally was. ruled that Hunter Henry made a goal-line reception in the third quarter. But a replay review wiped out the reception, and thus the touchdown, as it was determined that Henry was not in full control of the ball while making the catch.

Another one of those missed opportunities in the red zone came in part because the Patriots ran out of time in the first half. However, they might not have been short of time if Henry went out of bounds on a 22-yard reception and if Mac Jones threw the ball away instead of eating a sack, causing the Patriots to burn their last two timeouts of the half.

While the Patriots lacked what could be viewed as a significant amount of penalty kicks, they also appeared to commit penalties at inconvenient times. Matthew Judon received an offside penalty on a third down play for the Vikings, making it easier for them to get the first down on what ended up being a touchdown drive for Minnesota in the first half.

Clearly, no penalty was more expensive than that one rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. started. Strong ran into the punt on fourth and third, giving the Vikings a first down and new life on the drive where they scored the game-winning touchdown.

Aside from the missed opportunities and made-up mistakes, there were a few other unusual things for the Patriots in Thursday’s game. They ran the ball just 13 times, by far the fewest rushing attempts they’ve had in a game this season. They lost Minnesota’s time of possession 36:17 to 23:43. Judon, who leads the league in sacks this season with 13, did not record a sack in a game for the third time this season.

On the other hand, it was Jones’ 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.

When you add all those things together, it becomes understandable why Judon felt this way after the loss.

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

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

Judson also said he felt more frustrated than disappointed by the loss.

“We need to play better defensively, come up with some of those stops,” said Judon. “Coming down the stretch, we can’t let them score on back-to-back drives, especially in a game like this. We are not disappointed. We’re going to bond together. We keep coming. But we’re just a little frustrated.”

No matter how you break it down, Thursday’s game still counts as a loss to the Patriots’ record — which is now 6-5. New England has also largely endured severe testing as of now, with its Week 13 game against the Buffalo Bills just one of four remaining games it has against teams in the playoffs with six games remaining.

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