In what may likely end up being a Wildcard Round preview, the Minnesota Vikings put away the New York Giants 27-24 on a franchise record 61-yard game-winning field gold from Greg Joseph as time expired.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. This one was ugly, maybe Minnesota’s ugliest win in a season full of nail-biters. But you know what’s beautiful? It doesn’t matter.
The Minnesota Vikings are 12-3, have secured a division win and home playoff game, and the win today over the Giants moved them ever closer to the #2 seed in the NFC, which would secure a crucial home game in the event of a Round 2 matchup against San Francisco.
What does today’s game tell us about this team moving forward as they finish the season and enter the playoffs?
This Team Knows How to Win
I don’t care what the analytics say, and I don’t care what history says. This team is 11-0 in single-score games, which isn’t luck.
Some say single-score games are coin flips and that winning them consistently is due more mainly to luck than skill. Well, the odds of flipping a coin the same way 11 consecutive times are not good, in fact, the odds of that happening is .049%.
So this Vikings team is not just historically lucky — they are lucky in a way that defies logic and reality. Or perhaps they are simply better when the game is close, at their best when they need to be — an argument I laid out earlier this season.
For the Vikings, ‘Ugly’ Works Just Fine
In the playoffs, it’s difficult to blow teams out. We know this. So, it bodes well for Minnesota that they have been in close games all season and coming back from deficits all season. All of this will pay dividends in January – and February? – when Minnesota is much more prepared for playoff-type games than any other team in the NFL.
Another Elite Weapon Emerges
At the end of the day, you win NFL games by winning the matchups, and today proved the Vikings have not one but two elite matchup threats. We already knew Jefferson was great, not just great but all-time great –- he placed his name in the record books again, setting the Minnesota Vikings franchise records for receiving yards and receptions in a single season.
But I doubt anyone expected the day that TJ Hockenson tabulated — 13 catches, 109 yards, and 2 touchdowns. That’s the statline you expect from Travis Kelce, George Kittle when he’s at his best, or prime Gronkowski. But today was Hockenson’s day to put up those numbers, and boy, was it a treat to watch.
Last week it was KJ Osborn’s turn to flash, and of course, we know what Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen can do. Hockenson’s performance today proved that he could also be relied on to carry the load when needed, and it’s going to be a nightmare for defensive coordinators to gameplan for all of Minnesota’s threats in the playoffs.
Special Teams Bounce Back
Last week’s game against Indianapolis was a game to forget for Minnesota’s special teams, but today they bounced back emphatically.
Josh Metellus came through with a massive punt block touchdown that put the Vikings in prime position for their 3rd touchdown of the game. The punt coverage was decent, the kickoff coverage was commendable, and they made a small mistake when Jalen Nailor knocked an almost perfect Ryan Wright punt into the endzone, but otherwise, it was an excellent day from the coverage units.
But the hero on the day, and a big reason Minnesota celebrates the holidays with a victory, is the man of the hour, Greg Joseph. Joseph knocked in two kicks on the day, a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter, but much more memorable was his 61-yard field goal at the end of the game.
Joseph’s game-winning 61-yarder was a massive kick, made more impressive because nobody expected him to hit it, given his inconsistencies from long distance in his career and his significant struggles from beyond 50 this season.
If Joseph can continue to be consistent on his kicks — and if this team can trust him on longer kicks — it will help Minnesota immensely when it comes to playoff time.
On New Year’s Day next week, Minnesota will travel to Lambeau Field for a rematch against the Green Bay Packers, who also happen to be the last team they beat by multiple scores.
The Packers are scratching and clawing for a chance at a wild card berth, and Minnesota will attempt to crush their dreams next Sunday.