Reporter NFC North
Let me start by saying: I was wrong when I wrote this week about how the unprecedented connection between Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson made “taking a Vikings” a thing of the past.
it is not But it has changed for the better.
Just when it looked like Minnesota was about to pull off the Vikings’ biggest (negative connotation), they completed the greatest comeback in NFL history, rallying from a 33-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime.
“Did we just pull off the greatest comeback in NFL history? OK. I need a second,” said an incredulous Cousins on the field after the game.
This season, “pulling off a Vikings” can mean just pulling out a win, even when the odds are incredibly stacked against you.
It’s not hyperbole to call the first half against the Colts perhaps the worst half for any team in football this season. Before both teams adjourned to the locker room for halftime, the Vikings were down five goals thanks to three phases by this now 4-9 Indianapolis team. The Colts blocked a punt for a special teams score. Then they drove right down the field on a seven-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a one-yard pass to running back Deon Jackson for the injured Jonathan Taylor, who left early in the first quarter. The defense then got into the act in the second quarter with safety Julian Blackmon picking off Cousins and taking him to the house for a pick-six.
There was a failed fake punt by Minnesota and a fumble by Dalvin Cook also mixed in.
The Colts had a season-high 34 points in the opener. They had 33 at halftime. And the beaten Vikings trotted into the locker room 33-0 to loud boos from the crowd.
Minnesota was shut out in the first half for the first time since 2020, which also came against Matt Ryan, then with the Falcons. It was the Vikings’ largest deficit since 2002 and the second game this season Minnesota trailed by 30 or more points. The rest of the NFL? Just two total, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
And just as I couldn’t help but feel for Vikings fans who have spent most of this season defending their roster against those who called them frauds and maybe, just maybe, even started to believe that this year was different themselves, that they would have to Atone for a historic poor performance, Minnesota turned it around to remain perfect in one-score games this season.
“It took everybody today,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “After playing our worst half of football all season, trying to do everything we could to lose the football game, we came back at halftime and our team had a decision to make. Our coaches had a decision to make take. When our coaching staff went to our players to give them the pseudo plan for the second half, guys like Patrick Peterson, Kirk Cousins, Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen, Brian O’Neill, CJ Ham, Dalvin Cook, that is what I heard. I hear our leadership telling our guys that we’ve been here before, maybe not this much, maybe not the need for the biggest comeback in the history of our league, but this team believes in each other and we just have to go and try. play good football regardless of the score.”
The Vikings have now officially clinched the NFC North and improved to an 11-3 record on the season.
The heroics started with KJ Osborn, who ended up being the team’s leading receiver with 10 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown, a career day for him. Right behind him was once again, of course, Jefferson, who after being held to just three receptions for 17 yards in the first half, exploded again when his team needed him most. Jefferson finished the day with 12 catches for 123 yards and a TD. Jefferson was responsible for a first down or touchdown seven times in the second half alone.
And after a first half that saw him throw two interceptions (none of which were really his fault, given that receiver Jalen Reagor was completely out of position both times), Cousins completed 34 of 54 attempts passing for 460 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a new single-game career high for the 11-year veteran.
What makes it even more impressive is that the offensive line, even with left tackle Christian Darrisaw back, struggled thanks to going under a Garrett Bradbury. Cousins was sacked seven times Saturday. The interior folded, even folding Cousins in on himself as he tripped the foot of right guard Ed Ingram simply backing up from center at one point. It’s not the first time it’s happened this season either.
But the Vikings did not waver. Not even halfway through.
“There was belief,” Cousins said of the mood in the locker room at halftime. “Patrick Peterson said all we need is five touchdowns. I thought he was being sarcastic. Obviously there’s some yelling, there’s some frustration, but that’s not happening. Basic people don’t do what we just did.”
They might be the least basic and maybe most annoying team in the NFL. Before the game, the NFL Ops “Luck Metric” had the Vikings ranked as the third luckiest team in the league.
That luck had apparently run out with the way the first half went and not one but two calls that should have resulted in touchdowns for Minnesota. Officiating has been historically bad and at one point seemed to have prevented the comeback altogether.
But the Vikings didn’t need luck to end up winning. They just needed belief.
“We set a goal to win this division, at the beginning of training camp,” O’Connell said. “We hadn’t talked about anything other than winning the division. We knew how important it would be for our organization and our team. Now we have to take advantage of this moment, both of which we clearly have to correct early in this game of football, but let’s see if we can harness the energy that it takes to set a record like that and then build on that momentum to have more complete performances that this team always strives for.”
This is the second “miracle” game Minnesota has won this season. They have won every close game they have played, now 10-0 on the season in games decided by one score. And in O’Connell’s first season as head coach, they may have officially changed what it means to “take a Vikings.”
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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, adding the title of Super Bowl champion (and boat parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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