HomeSportsVikings mount biggest comeback in NFL history, clinch NFC North

Vikings mount biggest comeback in NFL history, clinch 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 was making it so ‘pulling a Vikings‘ was a thing of the past. 

It’s not. But it has changed for the better.

Just when it looked like Minnesota was about to pull the biggest of Vikings (negative connotation), they instead completed the greatest comeback in NFL history, rallying from a 33-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime.

“We just pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history? Ok. I need a second,” said an incredulous Cousins on the field after the game.

This season, ‘pulling a Vikings’ may just mean pulling out a win, even when the odds are incredibly 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 by five scores thanks to all three phases of this now 4-9 Indianapolis team. The Colts blocked a punt for a scoop-and-score on special teams. Then they drove right down the field on a precision seven-play, 66-yard drive that ended in a one-yard pass to running back Deon Jackson, in for the injured Jonathan Taylor who went out early in the first quarter. The defense then got in on the action in the second quarter with safety Julian Blackmon picking off Cousins and taking it to the house for a pick six.

There was a failed fake punt by Minnesota and a lost fumble by Dalvin Cook mixed in there, too. 

The Colts’ season-high in points was 34 coming into the game. They had 33 by halftime. And the already-defeated Vikings trotted into the locker room down 33-0 to loud boos from the crowd.

Minnesota was shut out in the first half for the first time since 2020, which was also against Matt Ryan, then with the Falcons. It was the Vikings’ largest deficit since 2002 and the second game this season Minnesota found themselves trailing by 30 or more points. The rest of the NFL? Only two total, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

And just as I couldn’t help but feel for Vikings fans who have spent the better part of this season defending their squad against those who called them frauds and perhaps, maybe, even started to believe this year was different themselves, who would have to atone for a historically bad performance, Minnesota turned it all around to remain perfect in one-score games this season.

​​”It took everybody today,” said head coach Kevin O’Connell. “After playing our worst half of football all season long, trying to do everything in our power to lose the football game, we came back in at halftime and our team had a decision to make. Our coaches had a decision to make. By the time our coaching staff came out 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, C.J. Ham, Dalvin Cook, that’s who I heard. I hear our leadership telling our guys we’ve been here before, maybe not that much, maybe not the need for the largest comeback in the history of our league, but this team believes in each other and we just had to go try to play good football regardless of score.”

The Vikings have now officially clinched the NFC North and improved to an 11-3 record on the season.

The heroics began with K.J. Osborn, who ended up as the team’s leading receiver with 10 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown, a career day for him. Right behind him was again, of course, Jefferson, who after being held to just three receptions for 17 yards in the first half, exploded once again when his team needed him the most. Jefferson ended 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 (neither of which was really his fault, given that wide receiver Jalen Reagor was completely out of position both times), Cousins completed 34 of 54 pass attempts 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 still being down one Garrett Bradbury. Cousins was sacked seven times on Saturday. The interior folded, even folding Cousins over himself as he tripped over right guard Ed Ingram’s foot simply backing up from center at one point. It’s not the first time that has happened this season, either.

But the Vikings didn’t waver. Not even at halftime.

“There was belief,” said Cousins about 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 doesn’t just happen. Basic people don’t do what we just did.”

They may just be the least basic and perhaps peskiest team in the NFL. Prior to the game, the NFL Ops’ ‘luck metric’ had the Vikings ranked as the third-luckiest team in the league.

That luck had seemingly run out with the way the first half went and not one but two blown calls that should have resulted in touchdowns for Minnesota. The officiating was historically bad and at one point, looked to have prevented the comeback entirely.

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 very beginning of training camp,” said O’Connell. “We had not talked about anything else besides winning the division. We knew how important that would be for our organization and our team. Now we’ve got to take this moment, both the things that we clearly need to correct early on in this football game but see if we can harness the energy it takes to set a record like that and then compound that moving forward to have more complete performances which this team always strives to do.”

This is the second ‘miracle’ game Minnesota has won this season. They’ve pulled out every close game they’ve 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 ‘pull 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, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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