After 30 minutes, it appeared the Minnesota Vikings(11-3) were on their way to one of the most disappointing losses of the season as they trailed the Colts(4-9) 33-0 at halftime.
However, Minnesota methodically worked its way back, and after a Dalvin Cook 64-yard touchdown reception and a T.J. Hockenson catch on a two-point conversion try, the Vikings tied the game at 36 and sent the game to overtime.
In the extra session, Greg Joseph’s 40-yard field goal with three seconds left gave the Vikings the improbable 39-36 win at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday.
With the win, the Vikings completed the greatest comeback in NFL history(the previous comeback record was 32 points by the Bills over the Oilers in the wild-card round of the 1992 playoffs), and they won the NFC North.
“When you got the right kind of guys, and we’ll continue to improve and stress the importance of individual offense, defense, special teams, group improvement, then our team understanding how we can avoid setbacks like we had early on,” Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said after the win. “We can list those. The list is very large from the things we did poorly in the first half. But I will never discount this team’s ability to overcome and continue to play, play for each other.”
O’Connell also gave credit to Kirk Cousins.
“How about your quarterback?” O’Connell said. “You cannot win the football game the way we had to go win it without your quarterback playing at an incredibly high level.”
Like everybody on the team, Cousins got off to a slow start. He completed only six passes for 43 yards in the first half, including a pick-6. The second half and OT were a different story; he completed 28 passes. Cousins finished the game with a season-high 34 completions for a career-high 460 yards and four touchdowns.
These comebacks are nothing new for Cousins, as he leads the NFL in game-winning drives (7) and fourth-quarter comebacks (7).
“Great to win,” Cousins said. “Great to come back. I had no idea it was the largest in NFL history. Something like that doesn’t happen to average people. I’m proud of the way the group did that. Just got to keep building from here.”
Vikings corner Patrick Peterson told the team at halftime that they needed five touchdowns. Those comments resonated with O’Connell.
“Patrick Peterson, I’ll never forget it as long as I live,” O’Connell said. “I addressed the team before we went back out there. I overheard him walk over towards the offense; We’re going to get stops; you just need five touchdowns. That’s nothing. It was a nice little moment for me to lead right in off of. I said, “Pat, you’re exactly right.” That’s what we needed at the time.”
Peterson said the Vikings are a resilient bunch.
“We are just resilient,” he said. “We are a locker room full of guys that believe in one another. What we have in this locker room is very special. We do not want to waste any moment. We continue to make the best of our opportunities.”
Unfortunately, Colts quarterback Matt Ryan knows what it feels like to blow big leads. Ryan was on the wrong side of history in Super Bowl LI when his Falcons blew a 28-3 lead against the Patriots, which is the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
He knows more than anybody that anything can happen in the NFL.
“I’ve played in this league a long time to know that a lot of different things can happen,” Ryan said. “Anything can happen. You just have to keep your head down and keep going and find ways to make plays when they present themselves. It’s not much. It’s a handful of plays in a game. It’s three or four plays from an offensive perspective that we’ve got to find ways to execute, and it’s a win. We just didn’t make them.”
No one should come back from 33-0, but weird things happen in sports, and what happened on Saturday in Minnesota was very unusual.
Vikings WR K.J. Osborn notched his first career 100-yard game with 157 yards on the day. Osborn (1,112) has now reached 1,000 career receiving yards.
Justin Jefferson caught 12 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown. Jefferson (1,623) joins Hall of Fame WR Calvin Johnson and WR Antonio Brown as the only players to record at least 1,600 yards in consecutive seasons. In addition, Jefferson (111) became the fifth player ever to record at least 100 receptions in two of his first three seasons, joining Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall, Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas.