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Mac Jones, Patriots: No Days Off, Even Thanksgiving

The Patriots will take the field on Thanksgiving night for the first time in a decade when they take on the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

FOXBORO — Even on national holidays, the New England Patriots take “no days off.”

For the first time in 10 years, the Pats will play football on Thanksgiving as they face off against the Minnesota Vikings in prime time from U.S. Bank Stadium.

While many throughout the country are content to enjoy a day without work, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is looking forward to being on the job, and playing on of the game’s signature stages.

“I think it’s a privilege to play football on Thanksgiving, at whatever age,” Jones told reporters on Tuesday. “You've got family, friends but you also are here with your teammates. We're just excited to play together.”

Aside from the pageantry of playing on Thanksgiving night, the Pats have a valuable stake in the outcome of this Week 12 contest. At 6-4, New England is currently a notable player the AFC playoff picture; holding the sixth playoff spot in the conference, and third in the division. 

With a win against the Vikings on Thursday, the Patriots would solidify their spot as a serious contender to earn a postseason berth for the second straight season. 

Fortunately for the Patriots and their fan base, Jones and his teammates are willing to put in the work required to bring the team to victory. 

“That's what we do, we play football,” Jones said with a smile. “Any day of the week, we want to play. We're excited about this one.”

Despite a stellar rookie season, the 24-year-old remains intent on avoiding the dreaded ‘one-hit-wonder’ moniker.  Refusing to rest on his laurels, Jones adapted a stricter offseason workout regimen and healthier diet heading into his second season with the Pats. As a result, he looked leaner and impressed his teammates with his work ethic and leadership skills. Accordingly, Jones also took the proper steps not only to increase his velocity, but also to build upon his accuracy in various spots on the field. Those preparations involved collaborating with noted throwing guru Tom House.

Still, Jones has yet to translate his offseason improvements into on-field excellence. Through seven games in 2022, the Alabama product has compiled just 1386 yards with only four touchdowns and seven interceptions. In the interest of fairness, Jones’ totals would likely be much higher had he not missed three games while removing from a high ankle sprain. It is also important to note that when Jones has been under center, he has more, often than not, been under constant pressure. To date, Jones has been sacked 21 times. 

While the Pats starting quarterback must shoulder some of the blame for his takedowns, New England’s offensive line has been especially porous when attempting to protect him. The situation is unlikely to improve much as tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) has been ruled out for Thursday’s matchup, while center David Andrews (thigh) and Yodny Cajuste (calf) are questionable. 

The loss of Andrews would especially be a significant setback for the Pats. The 30-year-old was helped from the field after incurring what was described a serious thigh injury in the first-half of Sunday’s 10-3 victory over the New York Jets. Despite initial reports indicating that he may be out for the remainder of the season, Andrews is attempting to play through it. He participated in practice on Tuesday, and was spotted moving well during limited team drills. 

Jones was especially impressed by the toughness and dedication shown by the Pats captain by participating (albeit in a limited capacity) in Tuesday’s practice. 

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"It just shows you how tough David is. He wants to be able to help the team however he can. Glad to have him out there. Great leader, great teammate, tough player, smart, dependable ... Definitely love that guy and hope we can make it work.” 

Regardless of Andrews’ status, the Pats must increase their offensive output to have any chance at winning on Thursday. This is particularly true of their red zone performance, which was anemic in Week 11 against the Jets. The Pats crossed midfield on five of their 11 offensive drives. However, they only reached the red zone twice, with Jones taking four of his six sacks on the day in Jets territory. 

If New England hopes to remain in playoff contention, they must find a way to bolster their productivity inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Interestingly enough, they may have the opportunity to do just that against a Vikings team know for its difficulty in stopping teams in scoring position.  Minnesota ranks last in the NFL, allowing opponents 20 touchdowns in 28 red zone trips.

Ultimately, the Patriots’ victory probability will be determined by the quantity and quality of work they have put in during a short week of practice. As New England is a team which adjusts its game plan according to its opponent, the objective is harder to reach given the reduced time for preparation. Still, Jones is aware that the ‘Do Your Job’ mantra is a way of life in New England. As such, neither he nor his teammates have eased their determination for one moment. 

“That’s what I love about this place. It’s all about work,” Jones said with conviction. “We're just continuing to work here up until the whistle blows and then get ready to play.

Of course, Jones is also intent on having some fun in what promises to be a closely-contested matchup in Minneapolis. 

“For me, it's preparing,” he remarked. “Get your body ready and then go out there, have fun, play on Thanksgiving, and enjoy it,” 

Kickoff between the Pats and Vikings is set for 8:20 p.m. 


Follow Mike D’Abate on Twitter @mdabateNFL and Listen/Subscribe to his daily podcast: Locked On Patriots

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