What is choking? Choking is the belief that a certain team or player cannot hold a lead. They cannot win close games, and almost anytime a win is being handed to them on a silver platter, they cannot finish their opponents off.
The Minnesota Vikings, and more specifically their quarterback Kirk Cousins, have been labeled as chokers for years now. Ever since Blair Walsh infamously missed that game-winning field goal in the 2016 Wild Card Game against Seattle, the Vikings have been synonymous with blown leads, missed kicks, and allowing Stefon Diggs to go to the Bills. Even with moments like the Minneapolis Miracle backing them up, the Vikings are “the team that chokes.”
However, over the last half decade, the Vikings haven’t been choke artists at all. Ever since Blair Walsh missed that kick, the Vikings are 45-0 when going into the 4th quarter with a lead. Forty-five wins, zero losses. Does that sound like a team that can’t hold a lead?
In fact, I’d argue that the Vikings have had more impressive come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter than blown victories in general. Week 2 of the 2019 season saw the Vikings come back from down 13 in Green Bay to force a tie with the Packers. While it wasn’t a win, that lone tie after trailing in the fourth shows that the Vikings have been statistically better at getting wins while trailing heading into the fourth than blowing wins while leading heading into the fourth.
You know who isn’t perfect when leading going into the fourth? Tom Brady (two such losses since 2017: Week 1, 2017 v KC & Week 5, 2020 @ CHI), Aaron Rodgers (two such losses since 2017: Week 11, 2018 @ SEA & Week 11, 2020 @ IND), and Russell Wilson (five such losses: 2019 WC @ DAL; Week 2, 2021 v TEN; Week 7, 2020 @ ARI; Week 10, 2018 @ LAR; Week 5, 2018 v LAR). None of them are chokers, right? None of their teams are cursed, right? Yet, statistically speaking, the Vikings have been better at holding 4th-quarter leads in the last half decade than all three of them.
I know Vikings kickers have missed some brutal game-winning kicks recently, and this past Sunday against the Panthers was brutal to watch, but the Vikings won that game. They didn’t blow it. They came out on top just like they have every time they’ve led going into the fourth quarter. The Vikings aren’t world-beaters. They’re not in the elite class of the NFL, and Kirk Cousins clearly has his problems when playing on Monday nights (not to mention with the concept of transmissible disease), but these Vikings aren’t the “chokers” that many fans and members of the media make them out to be. Much like their namesake, they love to hold the line, and I’ll tell you what, if I ever get the opportunity to livebet a Vikings win when they’re leading going into the fourth, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m hitting that button.