Then suddenly, the Vikings’ unusual capacity to win nail-biters kicked into gear— this time in unprecedented fashion.The Vikings pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history in a game that is already being hailed as a classic.
When the Vikings beat the Colts 39-36 on a game-winning field goal in overtime, it topped a game simply known as “The Comeback.” That was in the playoffs after the 1992 season, when the Buffalo Bills stormed back from a 32-point deficit to beat the Houston Oilers. In a bizarre twist, the Bills quarterback that day was Frank Reich—who was fired as the Colts coach earlier this season.
But what unfolded in Minneapolis on Saturday transcended the sheer margin that the Vikings overcame. Pretty much everything that could go wrong had gone wrong for them. And even as they started mounting an improbable comeback, unfortunate turns kept going against them. Their win probability at one point in the third quarter was less than 0.1%.
Vikings fans during Saturday’s unprecedented comeback.
The first few possessions of the game were as disastrous as possible for Minnesota. After the Colts opened with a field goal, the Vikings went three-and-out before having a punt blocked for a touchdown. Two plays into the next possession, Indianapolis forced a fumble leading to another touchdown. It was 17-0, and the Vikings had barely touched the ball.
From there, it kept getting worse. Minnesota’s offense again stalled after three plays, leading to a failed fourth-down attempt. The same thing happened on the next possession, except that one ended with a failed fake punt. After Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a pick-six midway through the second quarter, the score was 30-0. An additional field goal upped that to 33-0 before halftime.
Even the start of the second half didn’t begin optimistically. But after yet another three-and-out, Minnesota’s previously moribund offense suddenly sprang to life while its defense started to shutdown Indianapolis.
On three straight possessions, Cousins marched the offense down the field for touchdowns. Still, Indianapolis was ahead 36-21. The next drive produced Cousins’s second interception, seeming to halt any momentum.
Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, No. 8, revived his team’s dormant offense in the second half.
But as the Vikings defense continued to get quick stops, their offense got more chances. Another touchdown pass made it 36-28, leading to the big break they were waiting for—until the refs botched the play.
On the Colts next drive, running back Deon Jackson clearly fumbled the football and defensive back Chandon Sullivan appeared to return it for a touchdown. Yet inexplicably, the officials ruled Jackson down. When a replay review overturned the obvious error, Minnesota got the ball at the spot of the fumble instead of the touchdown. The next possession resulted in Minnesota’s third turnover on downs of the day.
But after the Vikings got a fourth down stop of their own, it took just one play for them to go the length of the field. Running back Dalvin Cook took a short pass from Cousins 64 yards for a score with just over two minutes left. After a 2-point conversion, the game was somehow tied up. The game was headed for overtime.
As epic as the second half was, it looked like it might end in a deflating tie. Minnesota’s opening drive in overtime ended with a punt. So did the Colts’ first drive. When the Vikings got the ball back, there were under two minutes left and they were inside their own 20-yard-line.
But Cousins led the offense down field with a trio of completions to K.J. Osborn, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, the receivers who keyed the rejuvenated offense. Jefferson, one of the best receivers in the NFL, had appeared hurt twice during the game but had returned to the field both times.
After the pass to Jefferson, with under 20 seconds left, the Colts defenders tried to lay on him to prevent Minnesota from spiking the ball and stopping the clock to set up a game winning field goal. The officials didn’t buy it and called a penalty.
All that was left was the kick—and Greg Joseph’s 40-yarder sailed through the uprights to end the game.
For Colts quarterback Matt Ryan, it was the second time that he was on the wrong side of comeback history. He was the Atlanta Falcons signal caller when the team coughed up a 28-3 lead to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
For the Vikings, the win cemented them as division champions. It also made for another bit of history at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Five years ago, Minnesota advanced to the NFC Championship on one of the wildest plays in league history, when Stefon Diggs hauled in a 61-yard, game-winning touchdown pass as time expired.
The play was immediately known as the Minneapolis Miracle. On Saturday, the team performed a second one.
Write to Andrew Beaton at email@example.com
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