MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings just completed the largest comeback in NFL history. Let that sink in.
Minnesota pulled it off Saturday, turning a 33-0 halftime deficit into a 39-36 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts. In the process, the Vikings clinched the NFC North and held a one-game lead for the No. 2 playoff seed over the San Francisco 49ers.
They’ll be talking about this game for generations in Minnesota. The Vikings didn’t score until eight minutes, 25 seconds remained in the third quarter. From that point they outscored the Colts 39-3, winning on Greg Joseph‘s 40-yard field goal in overtime.
Fans at U.S. Bank Stadium, already nervous about a team that turned an 8-1 start into a 10-3 record, rained heavy boos as the team went into the halftime locker room. But the majority remained and saw a day that will live in franchise history for eternity.
Their earlier frustration was understandable. The Vikings’ special teams allowed kickoff returns of 49 and 47 yards, and also had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had an interception returned for a score, and tailback Dalvin Cook‘s fumble in the first quarter ended a promising drive.
Describe the game in two words: Completely historic. It bears repeating. What we saw Saturday has never happened in the history of the NFL
Biggest hole in the game plan: Coach Kevin O’Connell didn’t account for cornerback Chandon Sullivan returning two fumbles for touchdowns, only to have both called back by referee Tra Blake’s crew, one in each half. On the first one, Blake ruled that the fumble occurred after forward progress had been established, rendering the play dead. On the second, Sullivan was given credit for the fumble recovery but ruled down at the 46-yard line. The Vikings did not score on the ensuing possession.
QB breakdown: Cousins managed just 43 yards in the first half but recovered to throw for 460 yards and four touchdowns. In so doing, he engineered his seventh comeback from a fourth-quarter deficit this season. Cousins is the third quarterback in Vikings franchise history to throw four passing TDs in the second half of a game, joining Tommy Kramer (2x) and Fran Tarkenton, according to Elias Sports Bureau. — Kevin Seifert
Underrated statistic to know: The Vikings have now won 10 one-score games, tying the most such wins in a season in NFL history.
Next game: vs. Giants (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 24)
Say this for the Colts: They don’t do boring. After giving up a 33-0 run in the fourth quarter of their previous game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Colts allowed the Vikings to complete the largest comeback in NFL history before Minnesota finally closed out the win.
This game provided some of the best evidence yet of the depths of the Colts’ offensive struggles. They led 33-0 at halftime but their offensive ineptitude showed up in the second half, allowing the Vikings to mount the massive comeback. Indianapolis managed just three points in the game’s final 40 minutes (second half and overtime).
The loss took the Colts to 4-9-1 and is their fourth straight in the five games under interim head coach Jeff Saturday.
The Colts have found new and creative ways to lose this season, and their recent tendency is to fall apart in second halves. They dominated much of their game against the Eagles on Nov. 20 before allowing a game-winning touchdown on Philadelphia’s final possession. They also went toe-to-toe with Dallas before committing turnovers on an astounding four consecutive possessions to end the game.
This game was a continuation of what’s become a theme for the struggling Colts.
Promising trend: Kicker Chase McLaughlin had another impressive day, booting five field goals as the Colts’ offense struggled to finish drives. McLaughlin arrived as a temporary solution to the team’s kicking dilemma, after the release of struggling veteran Rodrigo Blankenship. But McLaughlin has made a strong bid to keep the job in the long term after making 7 of 10 attempts of 50 yards or longer. He converted a 52-yard kick in the third quarter Saturday along with a successful 49-yarder earlier in the day.
QB breakdown: Matt Ryan was far from dominant in this game despite the Colts’ 36-point output. On the one hand, Ryan managed to avoid the mistakes he committed in so many of the Colts’ previous games. He didn’t commit a turnover for just the third time this season. But Ryan’s 5.5 yards per pass attempt speaks to the Colts’ continued inability to stretch the field, a fact that has made sustaining drives particularly difficult. The Colts generated just 102 yards of combined offense in the third and fourth quarters. Ryan has now been on the wrong side of the biggest comebacks in both regular-season and Super Bowl history. Ryan’s former team, the Atlanta Falcons, blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
Pivotal play: There were a number of crucial plays in the fourth quarter, including a would-be fumble return for a touchdown by Minnesota. But there was another call earlier that went in the Colts’ favor but could have created needed momentum for the Vikings. Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. appeared to fumble on a third-down catch in the second quarter, with the Vikings recovering and returning it for a potential touchdown. But the officials determined a whistle had blown before Pittman lost possession. The Colts led 23-0 at the time.
Silver lining: The Colts entered Week 15 projected to have the seventh overall pick in the next NFL draft. A win Saturday would have negatively impacted Indianapolis’ standing in the draft order, something that is critical for a team desperately trying to solve a yearslong quarterback issue. The Colts have had just one top-10 pick since 2012, when they chose quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. Guard Quenton Nelson was their lone top-10 pick since then, the Colts selecting him sixth overall in 2018. — Stephen Holder
Underrated statistic to know: The Colts’ 33-point halftime lead on the road was their largest since Nov. 12, 1967, when the then-Baltimore Colts led the Atlanta Falcons 35-0 at halftime in Atlanta.
Next game: vs. Chargers (8:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 26)