How Vikings used chaotic fourth-quarter comeback to stun Colts, complete biggest comeback in NFL history

Home Sports How Vikings used chaotic fourth-quarter comeback to stun Colts, complete biggest comeback in NFL history
How Vikings used chaotic fourth-quarter comeback to stun Colts, complete biggest comeback in NFL history

The Vikings appeared well on their way to a second straight loss to a team with a losing record. Minnesota went into halftime of its Saturday afternoon game with the four-win Colts trailing 33-0, and while it made up some ground in the third quarter, bringing the game to 36-14, it still had a long way to go.

Well, it ain’t over till it’s over, and there was a lot left to happen in the contest. The Vikings outscored the Colts 22-0 in the fourth quarter, capped by a 64-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Dalvin Cook and subsequent 2-point conversion that tied the game 36-36.

Two punts later, and the game was headed to overtime, where the Vikings would complete the biggest comeback in NFL history with three seconds remaining to win 39-36.

The fourth quarter delivered about as much excitement as NFL fans could hope for in a game that many might have turned off at halftime.

MORE: Cousins say ‘there was belief’ in locker room at halftime

Here’s how the Vikings did it:

Vikings’ fourth-quarter comeback vs. Colts

Minnesota gets back in the game

The fourth quarter couldn’t have started any better for the Vikings. Just 2:07 into the quarter, Justin Jefferson put a filthy move on Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore to free himself up for an 8-yard touchdown grab from Cousins.

The Vikings forced a quick punt on the next Colts possession, and they appeared to be set up with great starting field position after Jalen Reagor returned the kick 51 yards to the Colts’ 24. Only one problem: there was a face mask penalty called that moved the ball all the way to the Vikings’ 25.

Minnesota drove to the Colts’ 41. Cousins attempted a deep pass to Reagor, but the receiver appeared to stop in his route, allowing Rodney Thomas to find his way under the ball for an easy interception at the Indy 2.

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The Colts, again, couldn’t move the ball and were forced to boot the ball away, setting the Vikings up at the 50. Minnesota proceeded to march down the field in 1:36 to score a touchdown and bring the score to 36-28.

Questionable fumble call almost costs Vikings

At this point, clinging to an eight-point lead with 5:30 left, the Colts needed to drain clock and try to put up another score. Their drive started out promising, with Indianapolis taking more than two minutes off the clock and picking up a first down at its 38.

But on the first-down run, Deon Jackson fumbled. Chandon Sullivan recovered and returned it to the end zone. Unfortunately for Minnesota, officials had ruled Sullivan down by contact.

Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell challenged the call. Replay showed a clear fumble recovered by Jackson that should have resulted in a Vikings touchdown. But because Jackson was ruled down by contact, the reversal only gave Minnesota possession at the spot of the fumble.

Frustrated by the initial ruling, Sullivan took his helmet off, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that backed the Vikings up to their 46.

It was the second time during the game that Sullivan had a fumble recovery for a touchdown taken off the board. The first one was in the second quarter, when Michael Pittman was stripped and Sullivan took it back, only to learn that officials ruled Pittman’s forward progress had been stopped before the fumble.

MORE: NFC standings after Vikings clinch North

Vikings make a critical fourth-down stop

With the ball back in their possession, the Vikings moved to the Colts’ 45, but Cousins was taken down on a scramble on fourth-and-15. Indianapolis took over with 2:52 left and the ball at its 44. Zack Moss rushed for a first down to the Minnesota 45 but fell out of bounds to stop the clock.

The Vikings were forced to use all three timeouts as they tried to stop Indianapolis, which they did at the Minnesota 36 to set up a fourth-and-1 decision for the Colts: punt, try a long field goal or go for it? With Minnesota out of timeouts, a first down would have ended the game. Matt Ryan tried a quarterback sneak but was ruled short of the line to gain.

All of a sudden, the Vikings had the ball back with life.

Vikings take the lead and win in overtime

It took no time for the Vikings to tie the game. Only the first play of the drive, Cousins dumped off a screen pass to Cook, who carried it to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown. 

Cousins then found tight end T.J. Hockenson over the middle for the 2-point conversion to even the game 36-36 with 2:15 left.

The teams traded three-and-outs to send the game to overtime.

Minnesota won the coin toss to start overtime and elected to start on offense. They promptly marched down to the Colts’ 39, but instead of trying for a 57-yard field goal on fourth down, the Vikings punted.

Indianapolis took its turn driving downfield but it was forced to punt after nine plays.

After taking over at their 18 with 1:41 left, the Vikings had to work fast. Cook rushed for 6 and Cousins hit back-to-back passes for 15 and 21 yards to K.J. Osborn and Adam Thielen, respectively, to move into Indianapolis territory. Cousins then found Justin Jefferson at the Colts’ 27 on a 13-yard pass with 20 seconds left. 

Without any timeouts, it looked like the Vikings were going to have a chaotic scramble, but as they were trying to move to spike the ball and kick the field goal, Ifeadi Odenigbo was called for delay of game after clearly trying to keep Jefferson pinned to the turf.

The delay moved the Vikings up five yards and stopped the clock, setting up Greg Joseph for the game-winning field goal.

Early in the third quarter, the Vikings had a win expectancy of just 0.4 percent, making this the second-most statistically improbable comeback in Next Gen Stats history. That Colts’ win expectancy? It took a serious tumble in that fourth quarter.

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