MINNEAPOLIS — Football is a Thanksgiving Day tradition, and the Minnesota Vikings have been part of that tradition many times. However, this year's Thursday night game against the New England Patriots will be the first Thanksgiving Day home game in Vikings history. They're 6-2 on the football-fueled holiday, last playing at Detroit in 2017. The Patriots are 3-2, all on the road. Their previous appearance was a win over the Jets in 2012.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has plenty of experience with Thanksgiving Day games; Washington played at Dallas three times on Thanksgiving when Cousins was there, twice as the starter.
“A lot of kids grow up playing in the backyard, playing football on Thanksgiving, but not a lot get to continue like we’ve been able to do," Cousins said. "It’s a real privilege, and you want to play in such a way that reflects that. Hopefully we can get it done.”
NBC will broadcast the Vikings-Patriots game as part of a special Thanksgiving edition of Thursday Night Football. Coverage starts on KARE 11 with a special pregame Vikings Extra at 6 p.m., followed by Football Night in America at 7 p.m. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings are also inviting several special guests to U.S. Bank Stadium for the game: Minnesota singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith will perform the national anthem; Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee will sound the Gjallarhorn; and Tyler Hubbard of Florida-Georgia Line performs at halftime.
O'CONNELL TO FACE HIS FORMER COACH
The first regular-season game Kevin O'Connell participated in during his fleeting NFL playing career came in late-game relief for New England in a rare lopsided loss.
The Patriots had a bye the following week, and sure enough coach Bill Belichick had them ready for a bounce-back victory. Even after Tom Brady was lost for the year with a knee injury in the opener, the Patriots finished that 2008 season with an 11-5 record.
The response to the Week 3 blowout was methodical, not maniacal. The message was about controlling what was in their control and simply letting the rest of it go.
“That sticks with me to this very day, just as an example of what it’s like to coach in those moments where adversity hits and how you need to be at your best for your team,” O'Connell said.
The first-year Minnesota Vikings coach has found himself in that very situation this week, following a 40-3 loss to Dallas. The Vikings (8-2) host the Patriots (6-4), still coached by Belichick all these years later, on Thursday night with only four days to regroup. O'Connell, fittingly, will experience one of the biggest tests of his mettle as the boss against a coach who significantly influenced his know-how and perspective.
“I still have old notebooks with team meeting notes and things like that that are always great to go back and look through,” O'Connell said.
The first thing Belichick said this week when asked about his memory of O'Connell? That he was a “smart kid" who picked up the offense quickly.
“He’s done a heck of a job and climbed through the coaching ranks quickly," Belichick said. "Based on the way the Vikings are playing this year, you could see why he’s done it.”
More Vikings coverage from Locked On Vikings: