With the absolutely improbable 39-36 OT comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, your Minnesota Vikings are now 11-3. The Vikings scored 22 points in the 4th quarter. Want to see a win probability chart? Here you go:
Jeff Saturday, welcome to the Minnesota Vikings Thunderdome pic.twitter.com/WssY7zPQTv— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) December 17, 2022
Kirk Cousins had the game of his life, throwing for an absolutely absurd career-high 460 yards, collecting 4 TDs along the way. Much of Cousins’ stats occurred in the second half alone. His distribution was stellar, with passing TDs to WRs Adam Thielen, KJ Osborn, Justin Jefferson, and a 64-yard screen pass to RB Dalvin Cook.
In the first half, we saw what can happen if the Vikings offense regresses to the level the defense has struggled at. In the second half, fans saw what can happen if the defense elevates itself to the level the offense has been accustomed to playing at.
This game was essentially 2 blowouts in one, and will take experts and pundits a very good while to analyze in full. Being the single greatest comeback in the history of the league by points scored, people will be talking about this one for a long time.
The previous record of 32 points, set by the Buffalo Bills against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 AFC Wild Card round, lasted just shy of 30 years. It’s hard to imagine that the Vikings’ new comeback record will be topped anytime soon.
The Vikings are now King in the North, clinching their first NFC North crown since 2017 and their first playoff appearance since 2019.
In honor of these Vikings scratching and clawing their way to an 11-3 record, take a look at how the previous 11-3 Vikings fared throughout the years.
The Vikings 40th season started off hot, winning their first 7 games despite not being able to retain QBs Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. That opened the door for Daunte Culpepper, who immediately made an impact for the Vikings. After Week 14, Minnesota stood tall at 11-2, but would go on to drop their 3 remaining games and finish 11-5 after losses to Green Bay, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Indianapolis and St. Louis would go on to make the playoffs.
This Vikings team was still influenced by the core from 1998’s 15-1 squad, despite the absence of Cunningham and others. This team put up significant points, averaging 24.6 points/game, a figure that was good for fifth-best in the league that year. Unfortunately, the defense had continued to regress significantly from 1998, and allowed 23.2/game (24th out of 32).
Still, these Vikings overachieved their expected win/loss of 8-7, leading to the postseason and a wild card round bye. Much like this year’s team, the Vikings were more likely than not to win close games, going 7-2 in one-score contests.
This Vikings team earned Minnesota’s last playoff appearance until 2004. In the postseason they defeated New Orleans comfortably in the divisional round, 34-16. The NFC championship was a different story, in the worst possible way, losing to the New York Giants 41-0 at Giants Stadium.
The blowout signified a turning point for Minnesota. This game was Coach Dennis Green’s last playoff appearance in charge of the Vikes, leading to a contract buyout after the vikings posted a losing record in 2001. leading to the Mike Tice era. Minnesota would have a losing record the next 2 seasons before missing the playoffs at 9-7 in 2003. Minnesota would return to the playoffs, but lose in the divisional matchup against Philadelphia in 2004 after an 8-8 regular season.
The pinnacle of Brett Farve’s tenure as a member of the Purple and Gold and the ol’ gunslinger’s last chance at postseason glory.
Adrian Peterson continued to eat yards for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Minnesota’s cornerstone RB would finish the season at 1383 yards and 4.4 per attempt. Although Peterson finished with 7 fumbles, the most for a non-QB in the league, he also led the league in rushing TDs.
Much like 2000, the Vikings started off hot, going 6-0 to open the season. Minnesota would reach 11-3 in week 14 after a comfortable win at home against Cincinnati. Everything was looking up heading into the postseason, winning the NFC North at 12-4 while edging out Green Bay, who was right on Minnesota’s heels at 11-5. Farve and the Vikes won both matchups against the cheeseheads.
It’s fair to say that Minnesota fans viewed this team as special, and in the playoff-opening divisional round matchup against the Cowboys, that hope and excitement was further validated. After winning 34-3 against Dallas in Minnesota, an NFC championship game at New Orleans loomed.
In a game marked by the infamous Bountygate scandal, a beaten and battered Farve could only watch as a painful interception with 4 seconds left effectively ended the Vikings’ season after New Orleans scored on the first OT possession.
Head Coach Brad Childress would hang onto his job as the Vikings went 6-10 in 2010 and was fired after going 3-7 across the first 10 weeks in 2011.
After going 7-9 in Mike Zimmer’s first season as head coach in 2014, Minnesota had begun to turn the ship around by making the playoffs in 2015 following the last years of the Childress era and the tenure of Leslie Frazier.
2017 was unquestionably the peak of Zimmer’s coaching tenure with Minnesota. The Vikings started 2-2, losing at Pittsburgh in week two and a week 4 off-game to Detroit. From there, the Vikings seemed to see a ladder and start climbing. Minnesota would win every game for the rest of the season spare a week 14 misstep at Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers.
Sam Bradford started the year under center, winning his first game, but injury would see the emergence of Case Keenum. Bradford would start again in week 5, but couldn’t make it to half with his much-troubled knee the cause. This would be the last time Bradford hit the field for Minnesota.
Keenum’s emergence may have been the season’s primary storyline, but the offense truly came into its own under the influence of developing star wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Diggs would finish the year with 8 TDs and 849 receiving yards while Thielen would rack up 1276 yards and 4 TDs. Keenum also had TE Kyle Rudolph as an option, who scored 8 TDs himself.
The run game was powered by Latavius Murray and Jerick Mckinnon. Murray rushed for 842 yds and 8 TDs, while Mckinnon finished with 570 yds, 3 rushing TDs, and 2 receiving TDs.
Minnesota’s defense, under Zimmer and coordinator George Edwards, led the league in points allowed (15.8/game).
Right Defensive End Everson Griffen finished with 13 sacks and Danielle Hunter with 7 powering a stout pass rush. Things were tight in the secondary as well, with Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Trae Waynes, and Xavier Rhodes proving a locked-in secondary in addition to SS Andrew Sendejo and eventual 1st-team all-pro FS Harrison Smith.
The divisional round of the playoffs saw Minnesota losing to New Orleans at home, down 1 point with 10 seconds left. Pure pandemonium would ensue as Keenum found Diggs as time expired, creating the legend known as the Minneapolis Miracle and sending the Vikings to Philadelphia to take on the red-hot Eagles in the NFC Championship.
2017’s season would end there as Minnesota squandered the chance, losing 38-7, to be the first team ever playing at home in the Super Bowl. It was yet another frustrating viewing experience for the Vikings’ fanbase, and Mike Zimmer would never get it that good again.
With those 3 seasons considered, one beacon of hope is that in each of the last three 11-3 regular season starts, the Vikings won the NFC North en route to an NFC championship game, although they did lose the conference championship game on each occasion.
Where do you think this year’s squad stacks up against those 11-3 Vikings teams? Do you think this year’s squad will continue the trend? Will they even have the chance at a Super Bowl birth? Or, will they make it to the biggest game of the season?
(Edit: this article originally misstated the departures of head coaches Dennis Green and Brad Childress. It has been updated to reflect the correct manner of their departures with Minnesota.)