Vikings clinch NFC North after file 33-point comeback win

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title Saturday with — ho, hum — the most important comeback in NFL historical past.

Powered by a brand new teaching workers and largely the identical roster that had missed the postseason in three of the previous 4 years, the Vikings overcame a 33-point halftime deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 at U.S. Financial institution Stadium.

The 33-point comeback exceeded the earlier file of 32, set by the Buffalo Payments within the 1992 playoffs in opposition to the Houston Oilers. Kevin O’Connell led the Minnesota to its eleventh victory in his first 14 video games as its head coach.

The historic win eradicated the Vikings’ final remaining competitor, the Detroit Lions, from rivalry for the NFC North title. After profitable their first division title in 5 years and their sixth for the reason that flip of the century, the Vikings maintain a one-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed.

The Vikings’ stay odds to win the sport grew to so long as 30-1 at Caesars Sportsbook, however have been even longer at different sportsbooks. At PointsBet, the Vikings have been 90-1 to win the sport after they have been down 33-0. The sportsbook stated it took a pair bets on the Vikings at 90-1 odds, the most important a $5 wager.

In a wild twist of drama, the Vikings have been booed off the sector at halftime. Cornerback Patrick Peterson challenged his teammates to attain 5 touchdowns within the second half — a troublesome ask in any circumstance — and O’Connell stated: “I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

“It was a nice little moment for me to lead into,” O’Connell stated. “I said, ‘Pat you’re exactly right.’ That’s what we needed at the time. It was probably the most motivated I’ve been to challenge our players, so they just knew that regardless of the outcome today, that first half was not good enough. It will never be acceptable to have that type of performance, regardless of the outcome today.

“No person is happier to be NFC North champions. The way in which we earned it, I believe will keep on with plenty of us for a very long time, however there’s nonetheless quite a bit to return and ensure we rectify.”

The Vikings didn’t score until 8 minutes, 22 seconds remained in the third quarter. 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 in perspective immediately afterward, saying he “is not wired that means.”

But after the Vikings won their 10th one-score game of the season, Cousins did say: “One thing like that does not occur to common folks.”

The Vikings fired former coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman the day after the 2021 season. Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to replace Spielman, and Adofo-Mensah signed off on their choice of O’Connell as the new coach.

Together, the Vikings’ new leadership decided against blowing up a veteran roster that lost eight games by one possession in 2021. Instead, Adofo-Mensah initiated what he called a “aggressive rebuild,” hoping to squeeze as many wins from the prevailing core as attainable earlier than starting the method of turning over key positions with youthful gamers.

O’Connell redesigned the offense round receiver Justin Jefferson, who has jumped to the highest of NFL receiving rankings. Cousins has produced the worst statistical season of his 5 in Minnesota, however he has led seven fourth-quarter comebacks, together with Saturday, and has thanked O’Connell repeatedly for empowering him to play via his errors.

Cousins is one in every of many returning veterans who’ve powered this season’s surge, together with eight who’re not less than 30 years previous: receiver Adam Thielen, linebackers Za’Darius Smith, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, cornerback Patrick Peterson and security Harrison Smith.

ESPN’s David Purdum contributed to this report.