The Vikes clinch the North after a scoring 33-point comeback
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title on Saturday with — ho, hum — the biggest comeback in NFL history.
Bolstered by a new coaching staff and largely the same roster that has missed the postseason in three of the past four years, the Vikings overcame a 33-point halftime deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 at US Bank Stadium.
The 33-point return surpassed the previous record of 32, set by the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 playoffs against the Houston Oilers. Kevin O’Connell led Minnesota to its 11th win in his first 14 games as head coach.
The historic win eliminated the Vikings’ remaining rival, the Detroit Lions, from NFC North title contention. After winning their first division title in five years and their sixth since the turn of the century, the Vikings are one game ahead of the San Francisco 49ers in the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Vikings’ live odds of winning the game grew to 30-1 in the Caesars Sportsbook, but were longer in other sportsbooks. At PointsBet, the Vikings were 90-1 to win the game when they lost 33-0. It took several bets on the Vikings at odds of 90-1, the sportsbook said, the largest bet of $5.
In a wild dramatic twist, the Vikings were booed off the field in the first half. Cornerback Patrick Peterson challenged his teammates to score five points in the second half – a difficult question in any circumstance – and O’Connell said, “I will never forget it as long as I live.”
“It was a nice little moment for me to lead,” said O’Connell. I said, ‘You’re absolutely right. That’s what we needed at the time. Perhaps the most motivating drive was the challenge of our players, so they knew that no matter what the score was today, that first half wasn’t good enough. It would never be okay to have that kind of performance. , regardless of the outcome of the day.
“No one is happier to be NFC North champions. The way we earned it, I think it will stay with a lot of us for a long time, but there’s still a lot to go back and make sure we get right.”
The Vikings didn’t even score with 8 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game. But from that point on, they outscored the Colts 39-6. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 417 of his 460 yards after halftime, more than any NFL quarterback in the past 45 years. Cousins struggled to put the performance into perspective immediately afterwards, saying it was “not wired that way”.
But after the Vikings won their 10th one-score game of the season, Cousins said, “Something like that just doesn’t happen to normal people.”
The Vikings fired former head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman the day after the 2021 season. The owners hired Zygi and Mark Wilf Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to replace Spielman, and Adofo-Mensah signed on to their choice of O’Connell as their new head coach.
Together, the Vikings’ new leadership decided not to blow a veteran slate that’s lost eight games on one possession in 2021. Instead, Adofo-Mensah began what he called a “competitive rebuild,” hoping to harvest as many gains from the current starting lineup as possible before starting the process. Handing over key positions with younger players.
O’Connell redesigned the offense around receiver Justin Jefferson, who catapulted to the top of the NFL rankings. Cousins produced Minnesota’s worst statistical season of five, but he drove seven fourth-quarter returns, including Saturday’s, and repeatedly thanked O’Connell for enabling him to play through his mistakes.
Cousins is one of several running backs who have fueled an increase this season, including eight who are under the age of 30: receiver Adam Thielen, linebackers Zadarius Smith, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, linebacker Patrick Peterson and safety Harrison Smith.
ESPN’s David Purdum contributed to this report.
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