The Minnesota Vikings pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history on Saturday afternoon, and while they found themselves in a 33-0 hole, it was mainly because of the defense that it wasn’t more. Can Ed Donatell’s group continue to make changes from here on out?
In the first half of Saturday’s miracle for Minnesota, the Vikings gave up just a single offensive touchdown. That came following a 40-yard Dalvin Cook run in which he fumbled the ball on the next play. Indianapolis drove from their own 34-yard line to punch in a touchdown on a Deon Jackson one-yard reception. Outside that situation, Minnesota held the Colts offense to four field goals.
Although special teams were anything but for the Vikings, it’s hard to see anything but improvement for Ed Donatell’s unit.
Can The Vikings Defense Keep Standing Up?
First and foremost, there was no possibility for Kirk Cousins and the offense to orchestrate a comeback without the bleeding being stopped. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson told the offense at halftime that they needed just five touchdowns. Since Minnesota stopped Matt Ryan to the tune of three points over the game’s final 39 minutes and 57 seconds, that couldn’t have been more true.
Then there was the reality that the Colts were largely advantageous off opportunities provided to them. While the Vikings consistently shot themselves in the foot, Indianapolis did little more than the minimum, thanks to the number of field goals. Ryan didn’t surpass 200 yards in the game and had just a measly 5.5 yards per attempt. Although Jonathan Taylor was lost early in this one, no Colts running back topped 100 yards, and Zack Moss generating 81 still required him to put up 24 carries.
Having allowed 400 yards in five consecutive games, the Vikings had nearly a 200-yard discrepancy in their favor when the dust settled. Indianapolis generated just 341 yards of total offense, while Minnesota put up 518 yards of their own. On third down, the Vikings also buckled down to the tune of holding Indianapolis to just a 31.6% success rate (6-19).
To be fair, it’s not exactly noteworthy to hold a team as bad as the Colts currently are to 314 yards. They still generated 33 points, and although the field goals kept Minnesota in it, forcing a few more stops could’ve kept this in check sooner. That said, for a team that has fallen as hard as Minnesota, racking up three sacks and turning the ball over while allowing just three second-half points is a massive win.
Leading up to this contest, we heard from both O’Connell and Donatell how the plan would be to tighten things up going forward. Rather than allowing so much space in coverage, the secondary would see adjustments, and the front would get more aggressive when trying to bring down the quarterback. There isn’t a better opponent to try that against than one led by this version of Matt Ryan, with wide receivers that would struggle to start for many other organizations.
With three games left in the season, Saturday’s effort is a great launching point for Donatell. He needs to continue making schematic improvements every week, and making sure the unit is a finely tuned machine is a must entering the playoffs. Indianapolis gave them a great opportunity, and although it took 30 minutes to find a groove, the job was accomplished.
From here on out, there should be continued opportunities for Minnesota. The New York Giants are primarily one-dimensional in that the focus will always be Saquon Barkley. Green Bay has seen Christian Watson take steps forward, but that team is still a mess. Chicago is growing with Justin Fields settling in, but there again, a divisional foe should be thwarted with bigger games that lie ahead.
The Vikings won’t become competent overnight defensively, but even raising the water level a bit will serve a strong offense plenty well.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.