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The best play, and the worst play, of your Minnesota Vikings 2022 season

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) recovers a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Your Minnesota Vikings played 1,118 downs on defense last year (second most in the NFL), 1,083 downs on offense (12th in the NFL), and 295 downs on special teams.


That is the number of times the Vikings had a chance to instill amazement or bestow suffering on our minds, bodies, and souls. When it was all said and done, I’d say they did a great job at doling out both.

The way in which they did it however is, to put it mildly, special. Last year, a year unlike any other for this franchise (or league), gave me a higher understanding of being a Vikings fan. Gone were the Sundays of watching the Vikings neatly win or lose a game.

6 of the Vikings 17 games were decided by 10 points or more, with the Purple and Gold going 2-4 in those contests. The Vikings only lost once by less than 10 points. That was, of course, the Wild Card round season-ending loss against the New York Giants by 7 points.

My point in those stats is this: This Vikings season was about as tailor-made as possible for high-impact individual plays that switched win probabilities in a massive way.

Going by the official NFL top 100 video, the Vikings’ play of the year was the Justin Jefferson catch on 4th and 18 against Buffalo with 1:51 left in the 4th quarter as the score read 23-27.

While that improbable, nay, impossible, catch was more than deserving, the most memorable play for me was what happened directly after the Vikings failed to score from the opportunity resulting from that catch.

Of course, I am talking about the Eric Kendricks fumble recovery after Bills QB Josh Allen squandered the snap on the stripe of the end zone.

These two plays are as similar as they are different (confusing, yes, but hear me out):

Jefferson’s catch was the ultimate acrobatic achievement, representing the absolute pinnacle of athleticism and coordination. Had he not hauled it down, seemingly using magic to keep it from touching the grass, the Vikings’ comeback would have ended then and there.

Kendricks’ recovery used the furthest thing from acrobatics: Raw strength to hold onto the ball and mental toughness to never say die. A fumble recovery in the end zone, for a touchdown, is also an incredibly rare play regardless of if a given team is on offense or defense. Usually this happens on the heels of an offensive player fumbling in the end zone, and his teammate recovering.

That was not the case for Kendricks:

While it is highly irregular to have one play that can be singled out as game-saving, the Vikings ultimately needed lightning to be caught in a bottle twice, and that is exactly what happened. Do not show this win probability chart to anyone with heart problems:

Data: numberFire

The Kendricks fumble recovery is by far the biggest jump on this chart (pretty much breaking it), but the JJ catch’s swing is highly remarkable in its own right (the jump immediately preceding the breaking of said chart). To have two jumps like that... well, I’ll let Paul Allen sum it up for you.

Honorable mentions: Saints’ kicker Will Lutz’s double-doink miss in London, Dalvin Cook’s 81-yard rush TD against Buffalo, Patrick Peterson’s game-sealing pick in OT against Buffalo, Greg Joseph’s 61-yarder as time expires vs the Giants, Cook’s 64 yard reception vs Indianapolis.

The dam of football weirdness broke in full force this season, and the Vikings managed to control the flood rather than get wrecked by it with all these improbable plays.

The worst play of the year, by contrast, was a stunning exercise in mediocrity. Frankly, this is a much easier selection as it was the one that ended the Viking’s season.

Kirk Cousins checking down on 4th and 8, with the season on the line, was inexplicable. Months on, it remains as dumbfounding as it did live.

TE TJ Hockenson caught the pass 6 yards from the marker and was immediately wrapped up for a 3 yard gain, turning the ball, and the season, over on downs.

While it is understandable that Cousins perceived no other option and was put in a tough situation given a faltering and tired offensive line, there was nothing to lose by arm-punting a ball and hoping JJ could come down with another circus catch (as in the Bills game).

Alas, there is nothing to be done about this play now, except rue what it meant for the most fairy tale (or fraudulent, depending on who you ask) season since in recent Vikings history.

At least Kirk got a small sliver of redemption in an off-season interview with Barstool Sports’ PFT Commenter. Fast forward to 6:34 where a good chuckle awaits.