Vikings vs. Colts score, takeaways: Minnesota completes largest comeback in NFL history, clinches NFC North
Minnesota rallies from 33 points down for the improbable victory
Saturday afternoon became the most unlikely division coronation in NFL history for the host Minnesota Vikings as they trailed 33-0 at halftime -- the largest home halftime deficit in franchise history -- against a scuffling Indianapolis Colts team that has now lost four in a row. The Colts dropped to 4-9-1 following Minnesota's 39-36 historic comeback victory in overtime. Thanks to their 33-point comeback, the largest in a single game in NFL history, Minnesota locked down its first NFC North division title since 2017 and also its first playoff berth since 2019.
The game swung from an unmitigated disaster to an unprecedented comeback with the Vikings utilizing a 39-3 run in the second half and overtime to surpass the Buffalo Bills' 32-point rally over the Houston Oilers in the 1992 AFC wild-card game, a game Buffalo won 41-38 in overtime after trailing 32-3. Entering Saturday, teams that trailed by 30 or more points at the half were 0-132 in the Super Bowl Era -- since 1966 -- including playoff games. Make that 1-132 following the newest "Minnesota Miracle" that was completed by kicker Greg Joseph's 40-yard overtime field goal. The Vikings are now the first team in NFL history to go 10-0 in one-possession games through the first 14 games of a season.
Minnesota's first seven drives were a textbook way to put the game out of your own reach quickly as it ended with a blocked punt returned for an Indianapolis touchdown, a fumble by running back Dalvin Cook, consecutive turnovers on downs, a punt, a Cousins pick-six and another punt. The Vikings roared back on the strength of Cousins throwing four second-half touchdowns to K.J. Osborn, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook, plus a one-yard dive by fullback C.J. Ham on the goal line. Cook's touchdown brought the house down in Minnesota, taking a screen pass 64 yards for what became the game-tying score following the two-point conversion:
Cousins' 460 passing yards set a new career high, and they now stand as the second most in a game in Vikings history behind only Tommy Kramer's 490 at Washington in 1986. Jefferson finished with 12 catches, 123 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown, giving him his ninth game with over 100 yards this season, the most such games in a season in team history. The third-year wide receiver is now up to 1,610 through 14 games played and on pace for 1,971 this season. That figure would break Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yards record of 1,964 set back in 2012.
For the Colts and particularly quarterback Matt Ryan, Saturday was a gut-punch. Week 15 marked the first time this season the Colts have led by double digits in a game, and they scored more points in the first quarter (17) than their 31st-ranked scoring offense had averaged entering the matchup (16.1 points per game). The majority of the touchdowns came via the Colts' defense and special teams, thanks to the 24-yard blocked punt return score for the first touchdown of the game and safety Julian Blackmon's 17-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Ryan accounted for the other score with a one-yard touchdown toss to running back Deon Jackson. The Indianapolis offense was playing with phenomenal field position the entire first half between deep kickoff returns and the Vikings' two turnovers on downs on their own 31 in the first half. Ryan is now on the losing end of the biggest comeback in NFL history and the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history -- the Atlanta Falcons' 28-3 collapse to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The best game of Colts kicker Chase McLaughlin's career went to waste as his five field goals, four of which came in the first half, stand as his new single-game career high and tied the Colts franchise single-game record.
Why the Vikings won
The Vikings played complementary football in the second half and overtime between the offense coming to life on the strength of Cousins' arm, and the defense forcing six punts, a fumble and a turnover on downs after halftime. The largest comeback in NFL history also involves some luck, and the Vikings got it when Colts left tackle Bernhard Raimann committed a false start penalty on fourth-and-one with Indianapolis set to go for it from its 34 with 1:22 left in regulation. The penalty forced the Colts to punt, and the game went to overtime.
On the final possession of overtime, the Vikings wouldn't be denied with Cousins completing passes of 15 yards, 21 yards and 13 yards. The 13-yard strike to Jefferson put the Vikings in range for Joseph's game-winner. Joseph was then gifted an extra five yards after the Colts committed a delay of game penalty, leaning on Jefferson to try and get the clock to run out before a Vikings spike. All in all, the Vikings learned that they have another level of resilience that no team in NFL history has shown before, thanks to the 33-point comeback.
Why the Colts lost
Interim head coach Jeff Saturday may regret some of his decisions to get field goals when his team was rolling in the first half. He opted for field goals on fourth-and-goal from the Minnesota eight, fourth-and-4 from the Minnesota 10, and on fourth-and-3 from the Minnesota nine. While blowing the biggest lead in NFL history, 33-0, doesn't seem possible, those three decisions to kick field goals may be some of the biggest culprits in the loss.
Indianapolis entered Week 15 with the second-worst scoring offense in the league, so it's rare it had three possessions inside the Vikings' 10. Turning just one of those field goals into touchdowns wins the Colts the game. Yes, their defense also shoulders plenty of blame for allowing 36 points in the second half, but the offense clearly needed to maximize more of their opportunities.
The Vikings stuff Matt Ryan's quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 36 swung the game. Had Ryan picked up that first down, the Colts were in position to run out the clock with the Vikings out of timeouts. Instead, Minnesota had the ball back down eight with 2:28 to go.
Play of the game
Following that defensive stop of Ryan's quarterback sneak, the play of the game occurred when Dalvin Cook took a 64-yard screen to the house for the game-tying score, pending the two-point conversion. That play will be remembered as the game's most electrifying. Cook ran like a man possessed, dodging and weaving his way through the Colts' helpless defenders en route to a touchdown that elicited an ear-splitting roar from the home crowd. This is a play Vikings fans will look back on for generations as people will remember where they were when the play occurred.
Up next, the Vikings host an NFC wild-card hopeful in Brian Daboll's New York Giants. The Colts return home to host Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 16.
Kirk Cousins' arm-punt interception is a killer. The Vikings seemed to finally have some momentum back, scoring consecutive touchdowns to get within 15. However, the Colts now have a great opportunity to bleed some clock and play keep away. 36-21 with just over seven minutes left to play.
Chase McLaughlin's 52-yard field goal is his fifth of the game, setting his new career-high. Colts lead 36-7 with 4:53 left in the quarter.
The Vikings get on the board with a Kirk Cousins two-yard touchdown to wide receiver K.J. Osborn. 33-7 Colts on top with 8:22 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings open the second half with their third punt of the day, going three-and-out after losing a combined eight yards. Kirk Cousins lost seven on a sack, and Dalvin Cook lost a yard on the first play of the drive. 33-0 Colts as they take the field for the first time in the second half.
Today's 33-0 deficit is the Vikings' largest at home in team history, and their third-largest overall in franchise history.
LARGEST HALFTIME DEFICIT IN VIKINGS HISTORY
2002 AT SEAHAWKS: -35
2001 AT GIANTS: -34
SATURDAY VS COLTS: -33
The 33-0 lead is the Colts' largest halftime lead in 25 years when they led the Miami Dolphins 34-0 in 1997. Today marks the largest halftime deficit for the Vikings in 20 years when they trailed the Seattle Seahawks 45-10 in 2002.
The Vikings' 33-point halftime deficit is the second-largest in a game this season, trailing only the Carolina Panthers' 35-0 hole in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 9.