Vikings clinch NFC North with biggest comeback in NFL history
Move Over, Frank Reich. Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings are the new owners of the largest comeback in NFL history, turning a 33-0 halftime deficit into a 39-36 overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday.
After scoring 36 points in the second half, the Vikings won on Greg Joseph’s 40-yard field with three seconds left in overtime.
The previous biggest comeback in NFL history was Buffalo’s 32-point comeback in in the playoffs against eh Houston Oilers on Jan. 3, 1993. The previous largest regular season comeback in NFL history was 28 points by the San Francisco 49ers against the New Orleans Saints in 1980.
In the casket and being lowered into their grave, the Vikings rose from the dead and scored 36 points in the second half, capped on a screen pass that Dalvin Cook took 64 yards for the game-equaling touchdown with 2: 15 left in the fourth quarter. In overtime, the Vikings won a coin toss and took possession of the ball. They moved into Colts territory before a holding call on Ezra Cleveland made it 3rd-and-24 at their own 42 when Cousins threw short to Hockenson to the Indy 39. Instead of trying a 56-yard field goal with Greg Joseph, who is 1-of-5 on kicks from 50 this season, they punted and pinned the Colts at the 13.
Indy took over with 4: 50 on the clock and the Vikings forced a punt with 1: 49 to play.
From their own 18 with 1: 41 to go and one timeout left, the Vikings did this:
- 6-yard run by Dalvin Cook
- 15-yard pass to K.J. Osborn to the 39
- 21-yard pass to Adam Thielen to the Indy 40
- Incomplete with 19 seconds left but Darrisaw injury cost them their last timeout
- 13-yard pass to Justin Jefferson to the 27, setting up the winning field goal
Final game stats:
- Kirk Cousins: 34-54, 460 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
- Dalvin Cook: 17 carries for 95 yards, 4 catches for 95 yards and 1 TD
- Justin Jefferson: 12 catches for 123 yards and 1 TD
- K.J. Osborn: 10 catches for 157 yards and 1 TD
- Adam Thielen: 3 catches for 41 yards and 1 TD
- Eric Kendricks: 12 tackles, including 4 tackles for loss
- Defense: 341 yards allowed snaps streak of 5 straight games allowing 400
How the comeback unfolded
The second half actually started with an ugly three-and-out by the Vikings. But after a defensive stop got the ball back to the offense with 11: 23 left in the third, Cousins and company started to cook. Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a 2-yard touchdown to cap a seven-play, 88-yard drive to make it 33-7 with 8: 52 left in the third quarter. Then with 1: 13 to go in the third, C.J. Ham forced his way over the goal line to make it 36-14.
Scroll to Continue
A 61-yard drive finished with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Justin Jefferson made it 36-21 with 12: 53 left in the fourth quarter.
And then after Cousins was intercepted, the Vikings defense forced a quick three-and-out to get the ball at midfield and the offense scored six plays later – Cousins to Adam Thielen for a 1-yard touchdown – and all of a sudden it was 36-28 with 5: 30 to play.
Then one of the biggest moments of the day happened with 3: 23 to go when Deon Jackson fumbled and Chandon Sullivan scooped it up and brought it back for what appeared to be a touchdown. The refs called the runner down, even though it was a clear fumble. Add on a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sullivan and the Vikings got the ball but were starting the drive at their own 45.
Cousins missed on his next three throws and then Christian Darrisaw was flagged for a false start, putting the Vikings in a 4th-and-15 situation at the Indy 45. Cousins tried to scramble, but was stopped by the Vikings after a 1-yard gain.
The Colts moved to the Minnesota 36-yard line and on 4th-and-1 with 2: 32 to go – and the Vikings out of timeouts – Matt Ryan’s QB sneak was stuffed and the Vikings go the ball back with 2 minutes, 19 seconds to play, still trailing 36-28.
The next play was magical: a screen pass to Cook that he took 64 yards to the house for a touchdown. And Minnesota tied the game 36-26 with a pass from Cousins to T.J. Hockenson on the two-point conversion.
How the Vikings fell behind 33-0
The Colts lit up the Vikings with 17 points in the first quarter, highlighted by a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Jo Jo Doman and a Dalvin Cook fumble that set up a short field and an easy touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Deon Jackson.
Down 23-0, the Vikings appeared to gain momentum when Michael Pittman fumbled and Sullivan picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown. Forward progress ruled this play dead, just like the previous one. The play was not reviewed and resulted in a Colts punt which pinned the Vikings at their 5-yard line.
Yes, Sullivan had two defensive touchdowns called dead by officials for questionable play.
Three plays later – including a play where Jefferson suffered a chest injury that he returned from – Cousins threw an interception that Julian Blackmon returned for a touchdown and a 30-0 Colts lead. If that Pittman fumble wasn’t ruled to be dead, the Vikings might have had seven more points and the Cousins pick-6 may not have happened.
The Vikings also failed on a 4th-and-1 from their own 31-yard line that led to a Colts field goal and a fake punt that saw Ryan Wright throw incomplete to Jalen Nailor.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.