Vikings overcome 33-point deficit for greatest comeback in NFL history
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings completed the biggest comeback in NFL history, erasing a 33-point deficit by beating the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 on Greg Joseph’s 40-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in overtime on Saturday to clinch the NFC North division in their typical dramatic fashion.
Kirk Cousins passed for 460 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Vikings (11-3), who trailed 36-7 late in the third quarter and became just the third team in league history to win 10 games in one season by eight points or fewer.
The Colts (4-9-1) stumbled onto the infamous side of the list, just ahead of the Houston Oilers in the 1992 postseason when they blew a 32-point lead (35-3) and lost to Buffalo (41-38) in overtime. According to Sportradar data, this was only the second loss in 1,551 regular-season or playoff games in the league since 1930 in which a team had a 30-plus-point lead and lost.
The Vikings took this rally all the way to their second possession of OT, after punting on their first one. Cousins hit K.J. Osborn — who had a touchdown and a career-high 157 yards — for 15 yards, Adam Thielen for 21 yards and Justin Jefferson for 13 yards to move into range.
Ifeadi Odenigbo was called for delay of game for lying on Jefferson to try to keep the Vikings from setting up for the kick, putting Joseph 5 yards closer for the winner.
Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday didn’t exactly get conservative in this collapse. Matt Ryan was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 sneak at the Minnesota 36 with 2:19 left in regulation. Then Cousins hit Dalvin Cook for a 64-yard touchdown on a screen pass on the next play and T.J. Hockenson for the 2-point conversion to tie the game before the 2-minute warning.
Outscored 33-0 in the fourth quarter of their most recent game, a 54-19 loss to Dallas on Dec. 4, the Colts came back fresh from their bye week and stunned the Vikings with a 33-0 halftime lead that was the second-largest in the NFL this season. Cincinnati led Carolina 35-0 on Nov. 6.
The intermission deficit for Minnesota was the second-biggest in franchise history, behind a 45-10 score at Seattle in 2002.
The Colts now have been outscored after halftime 72-9 in their last two games. They had a six-game winning streak against the Vikings stopped. The last time Minnesota beat Indianapolis was in 1997, the final game the Colts played before they drafted Peyton Manning.
The Vikings and their fans were livid several times after questionable calls went against them. With 3:23 left, Chandon Sullivan scooped up a fumble by Deon Jackson and returned it for what would’ve been a 39-yard touchdown. The Vikings were given the recovery, but the play was blown dead.
Sullivan was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after his tirade at the officials. The nickel cornerback thought he scored on a fumble return in the second quarter, too, when he ripped the ball out of Michael Pittman’s arms after a short catch. That play was blown dead for forward progress.
The special teams units bore the brunt of the brutal start for the Vikings. Dallis Flowers returned the opening kickoff 49 yards, and the Colts were in scoring position within seconds.
Odenigbo plowed past two blockers and sideswiped Ryan Wright’s punt with his right arm. JoJo Domann caught the deflected ball and returned it 24 yards for the too-easy score and a 10-0 lead.
Then with the Vikings trailing 20-0, coach Kevin O’Connell ordered a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 31. Wright’s pass sailed over Jalen Nailor’s head for a second straight turnover on downs.
Jefferson left the game twice for a brief examination following jarring hits to the chest. The second one by Stephon Gilmore also got him in the facemask and drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. Both times after Jefferson left the game, Cousins threw to Jalen Reagor on the next play and was intercepted after an apparent miscommunication on the routes.
Jefferson had 12 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown and raised his season total to 1,623 receiving yards. Calvin Johnson’s all-time record of 1,964 yards was set in 16 games in 2012.
– Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (ankle) was hurt on a 13-yard reception that ended with a hard tackle as he tumbled out of bounds, his first touch. He missed three games with the injury earlier this season.
– Vikings LT Christian Darrisaw returned from a three-game absence for a concussion but limped off twice in overtime with leg cramps. CB Patrick Peterson left with the same problem.
– The Colts host the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 26, their second Monday night game in five weeks.
– Vikings host the New York Giants on Dec. 24, the first time they will have played on consecutive Saturdays since the 1997 postseason.