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Vikings Beat Themselves, Bad Calls, and Then the Colts in Greatest Comeback in NFL History

Historic Win in Vikings 1,000th Game

Indianapolis Colts v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

It was the worst of times...

From the opening kickoff, the Vikings got blown out of their home stadium against a bad team with nothing to play for in probably the worst first half of football in franchise history- down 33-0 at halftime. The Vikings had multiple critical mistakes on offense and special teams. They got booed off the field by the home crowd at halftime- and deservedly so. This was a game to clinch the NFC North and bounce back from a poor game at Detroit the week before. The moribund Colts were just the team to get them back on track... but instead it was the Vikings who looked like they had nothing to play for.

The second half didn’t start out well either, with a miserable three-and-out following a Kirk Cousins sack. Any thoughts of a potential second-half comeback seemed to be snuffed out before they even materialized.

It was the best of times...

But then the Vikings started to right the ship a bit. Nothing dramatic, but they were able to slow down the Colts offense, held them to a field goal, then put together their first scoring drive. Another stop, another scoring drive. Vikings had the momentum.

Then hmmm…. they’re down 3 scores with a little over a quarter to play… suddenly that doesn’t seem insurmountable. Vikings were driving to start the fourth quarter - touchdown with 13 minutes to go. Vikings force another punt, but Cousins is intercepted on a deep ball where Jalen Reagor gave up on the play not realizing the ball was coming his way. Another punt deep in their own territory for the Colts, giving the Vikings starting position at midfield. 7 plays later touchdown. 36-28. 5:34 to play.

Four plays later, Colts fumble- Chandon Sullivan returns it for a touchdown. Only no- it was whistled dead after being ruled down by contact. Replay showed a fumble with the back still upright, let alone down. KOC challenges, call reversed, Vikings ball, but still no touchdown as the play had been (prematurely) whistled dead. Vikings turn it over on downs. Colts drive, decide to go for it on 4th and 1 at Vikings 36 with 2:31 to go. Vikings hold.

Vikings take over, first play screen pass to Cook…64 yards- touchdown! Vikings go for two- Hockenson over the middle- got it! Tie game. 36-36. 2:28 to go.

Two punts later, overtime. Two more punts, Vikings get the ball at their 18 with 1:41 left in OT. Run to Cook. Kirk to Osborn. Kirk to Thielen. Incompletion. Kirk to JJ. Colts get penalty for delay of game. 7 seconds left. Greg Joseph 40 yard field goal attempt- good!

Game over- Vikings complete biggest comeback in NFL history! Clinch NFC North title! Punch their ticket to the postseason tournament!

Historic Win

It was an ugly first half for the Vikings against a bad team. It would’ve been less surprising if the Vikings won 39-3 rather than coming back from 33-0 to win 39-36. But it was also the greatest comeback in the 103 years of NFL history. It was also the 1000th game in Vikings history and the game they clinched the 2022 NFC North division title.

It was also the tenth straight victory for the Vikings in one score games. And it was Kirk Cousins’ seventh game winning drive this season, tying him for second most in one season in NFL history.

And it is Kirk Cousins who now owns the greatest comeback in NFL history. In a nationally televised game.

Vikings Still Need to Play Better to Make a Deep Playoff Run

As historic a win as it was, and give the Vikings all the credit for coming back when many would write it off and move on, it was also a terrible half of football for the Vikings and the victory was over the 4-8-1 Colts. It was a game that should’ve been a more routine win for the now 11-3 Vikings at home.

Special teams was a real problem in this game. A couple long kickoff returns allowed, resulting in two short fields and scoring drives for the Colts. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown. These were critical errors that led to 13 points. Against playoff teams, that’s not gonna fly.

Offensively, the Vikings had two interceptions - including a pick six - with Jalen Reagor not being on the same page. Reagor appeared to be at fault on both. The first adjusting to the coverage after Cousins released the ball, resulting in an easy pick six. The second Reagor gave up on the play and didn’t finish his route- not knowing he had been targeted. Unfortunately Reagor just doesn’t seem to be reliable enough at this point to warrant more playing time.

They also failed to convert on 4th and 1. It happens, but the play call - Dalvin Cook up the middle behind Austin Schlottmann- was suspect. A bit more self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses would’ve been helpful there in play calling.

Some Bright Spots Too

Defensively, it may not have seemed like it, but there were some improvements. First, they held the Colts to under 400 yards in an overtime game. Granted this was a bottom ranked offense, but improvement is improvement. Duke Shelley started and played all snaps defensively at outside cornerback. He was also the highest graded defender for the Vikings according to PFF. There were no major breakdowns in coverage for the Vikings, and they held Matt Ryan to 182 yards passing and a 83.1 passer rating.

Offensively, KJ Osborn had a career game and showed he can get it done as WR3. Kirk Cousins said after the game that Osborn was doing his part but it’s difficult to get him the touches with JJ, Thielen, Hockenson and Dalvin in the lineup. Kevin O’Connell told him his time was coming, based on how he’s been playing lately, and against the Colts it did.

The Colts had the third best pass defense going into the game, but the Vikings had 460 yards passing. KJ Osborn led all receivers with 157 yards, followed by Justin Jefferson with 123 yards, and Dalvin Cook with 95.

Can This Season Change the Franchise Narrative?

Throughout their 61-year history, the Vikings have been haunted by the ‘finding a way to lose’ narrative. Whether their four Super Bowl loses, or the steady stream of miraculous and/or humiliating losses in both regular and postseason games over the years since their last Super Bowl appearance, the Vikings have a reputation for climbing the mountain far enough to reach key games... only to slip and fall back down again.

The Vikings have had a couple of those this year as well, and haven’t played well in many games, but if the Vikings are to change the narrative of their franchise from finding ways to lose to finding ways to win, this season may well prove to be the turning point.

Winning ten straight one score games, including this greatest comeback and the Bills game, is showing a culture change. It may not be enough to run the playoff gauntlet all the way to a Super Bowl win, but the savvy playmaking should help them if they can keep games close in the playoffs. And, if the Vikings can straighten some things out defensively, while staying healthy, they could make a deep run in the postseason.

Stay tuned.

Poll

Will the Vikings beat the Giants on Saturday or will there be another post-big game letdown?

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  • 82%
    They’ll beat the Giants
    (787 votes)
  • 17%
    Another letdown
    (168 votes)
955 votes total Vote Now