MINNEAPOLIS – With the Minnesota Vikings gathered in their humbled locker room at halftime in a huge hole, cornerback Patrick Peterson set the tone for an historic escape by promising his offensive teammates the defense would do its part to hold the Indianapolis Colts.
“You just need five touchdowns,” Peterson told them. “That's nothing."
This rally sure was something, though.
The Vikings completed the biggest comeback in NFL history, erasing a 33-point deficit by beating the Colts 39-36 on Greg Joseph's 40-yard field goal with three seconds left in overtime Saturday to win 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 a season by eight points or fewer.
“We're going to grind it out until they tell us there's no more ball left to play,” coach Kevin O'Connell said.
The Colts (4-9-1) landed on the infamous side of this list, just ahead of the Houston Oilers in the 1992 postseason. They blew a 32-point lead (35-3) and lost to Buffalo (41-38) in overtime.
“When you have chances to put people away, we’ve got to do a better job than we’ve done up until this point,” quarterback Matt Ryan said.
According to Sportradar data available since 1930, the Vikings became only the second team in 1,551 regular-season or playoff games to trail by 30 or more points and still win.
“Nothing fazes us. We showed that in Buffalo," said Peterson, who aided a 33-30 overtime victory over the Bills on Nov. 13 after a 17-point deficit. “We showed that again today.”
The Vikings took this rally all the way to their second possession of overtime. Cousins hit K.J. Osborn — who caught the first score and had a career-high 157 yards — for 15 yards. He found Adam Thielen — who had the second of three fourth-quarter touchdown passes — for 21 yards. Then he threw to 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.
“It's a special group, a lot of fighters," Thielen said.
Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday didn't exactly get conservative in this collapse. 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.
“We would have closed the game out and ended the game,” Saturday said. "I’m in. Everybody’s in. We didn’t convert.”
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 Vikings even overcame a pair of fumble returns for touchdowns by Chandon Sullivan that were wiped out by the whistle.
"I know that there's other games that don't end like that. It was just cool to see everybody battle back and I'm just happy that I get to share this moment with my teammates," linebacker Eric Kendricks said, wiping away tears.
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The last team to overcome a deficit of 24-plus points to win a regular season game was Washington over Tampa Bay in 2015, when Cousins was the quarterback. The previous regular season comeback record was 28 points in 1980, when San Francisco rallied from down 35-7 to win 38-35.
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 on fourth-and-1 from their own 31, Wright's pass on a fake punt sailed over Jalen Nailor's head for a second straight turnover on downs.
Jefferson left the game twice for brief examination following jarring hits to the chest. On the second occurrence, Stephon Gilmore also got him in the facemask and drew an unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter.
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. The first one was returned by Julian Blackmon for a 17-yard touchdown that made it 30-0 in the second quarter.
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) left the game on the opening drive after a hard tackle as he tumbled out of bounds. He missed three games with the injury earlier this season.
Vikings: LT Christian Darrisaw returned from a three-game absence for a concussion. He limped off twice in overtime with leg cramps. Peterson left briefly with the same problem.
Colts: Host the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 26.
Vikings: Host the New York Giants on Dec. 24.
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