The Vikings — Recipients of Atonement?
Earlier this season, I wondered if we just saw the greatest Minnesota Vikings game in franchise history. The team found a way to walk off the Buffalo Bills on the road in a game where Josh Allen gift-wrapped a touchdown. And then, there was Saturday.
The NFL has been around since September 17, 1920. In over 100 years, no football fan has ever seen something like what the Vikings pulled off on Saturday. Despite having the worst defense in the NFL. Despite having a quarterback that has consistently faltered in primetime. Despite facing a 33-0 halftime deficit, Kevin O’Connell’s team did the impossible.
The Vikings — Recipients of Atonement?
By now, you’ve heard how Patrick Peterson rallied the locker room at halftime. Sure, there was undoubtedly some yelling, but there was a 10-3 Vikings team being told by a veteran leader on the defense that all they needed to do was score five touchdowns. That’s certainly an eyebrow-raiser without context, but this was the hapless Indianapolis Colts and Matt Ryan he was talking about.
Whether Peterson was alluding to this or not, much of the Vikings first-half futility was self-inflicted. Chase McLaughlin, a one-time member of the Minnesota practice squad, found himself with makeable field goals mainly due to field position issues that the Vikings themselves created. Former Vikings defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo blocked Ryan Wright’s punt to set up a 24-yard defensive touchdown. Julian Blackmon later picked off a poor Kirk Cousins throw, taking it 17 yards to the house.
Across the 33 points put up by Jeff Saturday’s squad in the first half, only seven of them were directly generated by the Colts offense. If the Vikings needed a ray of sunshine, that’s where it was.
Starting the second half, there may have been a seance to rid the ghosts of Blair Walsh, Gary Anderson, Daniel Carlson, Gregg Williams, and plenty of others who have hurt The Purple over the years. We won’t likely ever be able to confirm the validity of that as truth, but it’s hard not to note a turning point midway through the third quarter.
K.J. Osborn came into the Week 15 contest with 300 yards to his credit on the season. Looking like a man possessed, he went off for 157 yards, the first century mark game of his career, and got the Vikings scoring started. Justin Jefferson matched Osborn for targets with 16 and was every bit the superstar he’s become synonymous with being. Adam Thielen was found by a search party coming out of the tunnel and hauled in one of his three receptions to secure another touchdown.
Facing a ticking clock with just over two minutes left, talented running Back Dalvin Cook took a screen pass 64 yards to the house and, this time, held onto the football. Following a 40-yard scamper earlier in the game, Cook coughed up the ball and gave the Colts additional points. This time he rectified the issue and ensured no one was stopping him, including his own blocker Ezra Cleveland.
All season long, this Minnesota Vikings team has warranted nothing but head shaking in disbelief. Cousins now has seven 4th quarter comebacks through 14 games, and despite a defense that has made things more challenging, O’Connell’s team owns the second-best record across the NFL.
It’s hard to view this version of the Vikings through a conventional lens. Nothing says they should advance deep into the playoffs. The holes are substantial and evident, yet they continue to rely on leadership and get it done. Adversity certainly doesn’t phase this team, and even Cousins’ bewilderment following the greatest comeback in NFL history would be trumped by a Super Bowl from the unlikeliest of franchises.
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.