MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings kick returner Kene Nwangwu returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter Thursday night, allowing the Vikings to tie the back-and-forth game with the New England Patriots 23-23.

Nwangwu returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2021 but hadn’t scored yet in 2022. He is the first player to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the Patriots since 2010, when C.J. Spiller returned one for the Buffalo Bills.

Most teams have been avoiding kicking to Nwangwu this season, and he entered the game with a total of 19 on the season. His touchdown Thursday night came on his fourth return of the game.

The Vikings also got an early score to open the game. In fact, they still have the best opening-drive offense in football.

Kirk Cousins‘ 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Jefferson was their seventh touchdown on the opening drive of a game this season. That’s two more than any of the NFL’s other 31 teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Jefferson caught two passes on the drive, four days after catching a total of three passes in the Vikings’ 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He is nearing the NFL record for most yards in the first three seasons of a career, one currently held by former Vikings receiver Randy Moss (4,163).

After his touchdown catch, Jefferson’s career receiving total was 4,122 yards.

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