The silence was deafening at U.S. Bank Stadium Saturday afternoon. The home team Minnesota Vikings came into the game with a 10-3 record, holding a half-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers for the second-seed in the NFC. Their opponent was the Indianapolis Colts, who earlier this year, became the laughingstocks of the NFL when they fired head coach Frank Reich and replaced him with the incredibly inexperienced Jeff Saturday. Although the Colts didn’t falter after Saturday came on board, they hadn’t impressed either. With Saturday at the helm, the Colts were 1-3, moving their season record to 4-8-1. With that knowledge alone, this should’ve been an easy win for the Vikes.
However, after a series of failed fourth down conversions, blocked punts, defensive touchdowns, and other various turnovers, Vikings fans were questioning whether or not they should head to the parking lot. It was 33-0 at halftime. Not even the Minnesota Timberwolves have trailed by that large a deficit at half all season. For context, the largest comeback in NFL history was 32 points — a 41-38 overtime victory for the Buffalo Bills over the Houston Oilers in the 1992-93 NFL playoffs. That comeback — engineered by ex-Colts coach Frank Reich — became known as the “Circle the Wagons” game. I’m not sure anyone thought such a comeback would happen again.
The second half started with more of the same, a three-and-out from Minnesota that went a grand total of -8 yards. However, the Vikings started kicking things into gear after that. They scored touchdowns on three straight offensive possessions, spending only 8:48 with the ball across all of those possessions combined. They were scoring quickly, and more importantly, the defense was finally stopping the Colts, allowing only three points in the second half, and the only reason the Colts got those points was because of a 48-yard kickoff return from Colts’ return man Dallis Flowers. The Colts’ scoring drive only went a measly 26 yards, but that was enough for kicker Chase McLaughlin to add to his team’s point total.
It didn’t deter the Vikings though. Nothing could. Cousins throws an interception? The Vikings’ defense holds strong and the offense scores a touchdown on their next possession. Turnover on downs? Cousins bounced back with a one-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped off with a two-point conversion to TJ Hockenson, the score that would eventually push the game to overtime. In overtime, after both teams traded underwhelming drives, Minnesota kicker Greg Joseph put the game on ice with a 40-yard field goal, and the city of Minneapolis got their second miracle in five years.
The mental fortitude of this Vikings’ team is incredible. I don’t know what was said at halftime, but it must have been the most legendary speech of all time. At the end of the first half, the Vikings’ sideline was dead. People had their heads down in defeat. The offensive stars didn’t even react when their defense made big plays. They were done. I wouldn’t have been shocked if the Vikings waved the white flag and came out in the second half with Nick Mullens under center.
But by George, the Vikings came out with renewed energy and made the impossible possible. I don’t know what the odds were for a Vikings’ moneyline live bet at halftime, but I’m sure somewhere someone is a very rich, happy man. I may not be rich after that game, but I can’t help but smile at the sight. We just witnessed history. I hope you didn’t turn off your TV after the first half.