It wasn’t pretty but the Minnesota Vikings came away with a must win victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-24, to continue their playoff push and surge into playoff contention as the end of the season nears.
If you look at the stats from this game, it looks like the Vikings came away with an easy victory, however, it was the complete opposite. Although Kirk Cousins through for 305 yards and three touchdowns, and Dalvin Cook ran for 120 yards against a 1-10 team coming into the game, the Vikings narrowly came away with the victory. This can be accredited to the Vikings Special Team play once again, especially Dan Bailey, who had a game he will not want to remember any time soon. Bailey would go on to miss two extra points and a game winning 51-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in regulation. This ultimately set up for Bailey to redeem himself in overtime as he connected with a 23-yard field goal chip shot to send the Jaguars home with their 11th straight loss and it send the Vikings into the playoff picture for the first time this season.
The first 25 minutes of this game was all in favor of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars, on their first possession of the game, went on to score after Mike Glennon found Laviska Shenault Jr. for a 28-yard score. On their very next possession, they would go on to add another three points after Chase McLaughlin connected on a 22-yard drive.
After three straight punts and a Glennon interception, the Vikings saw themselves with the ball at their own 22-yard line with 7:40 left to play in the first half. The ensuing drive, which took 10 plays and 4:50, was completed after Cousins found Adam Thielen in the endzone for a three-yard score. That was the 12th time Cousins and Thielen has connected in the endzone this year, which is good for second in the NFL behind Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill for the league lead. After two more punts, the Vikings went into the half down 9-6.
To start the second half, the Vikings were in perfect condition to gain the lead, especially with the second half kickoff ending out of bounds and the Vikings receiving it at their own 40. Unfortunately, Cousins would go on to be intercepted by Joe Schobert who returned it 43 yards to the house to extend the Jaguars lead to 10. That easily angered Cousins which led him to the lead the Vikings on a 75-yard drive that only lasted 3:42 to get them back in the game. Cousins found fullback C.J. Ham on a wheel route which ended with Ham celebrating in the endzone to make it a three-point lead once again.
After a Jacksonville punt on the next series, the Vikings received the ball on their own 10-yard line and looked to take the lead for the first time all game. That’s exactly what happened as Kirk Cousins would find Justin Jefferson in the back of the endzone for a 20-yard score, his seventh touchdown on the year, to put the Vikings back in front. However, this drive that took 3:50 wasn’t entirely completed, as Dan Bailey would go on to miss the ensuing extra point to keep it a three-point game.
The rest of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter was some of the sloppiest football you may ever see this year. With Jacksonville down three, Mike Glennon would go on to fumble the football on the very next drive and turn it over back to the Vikings. On the very next drive, Cousins would be sacked by Myles Jack and fumble it right back to the Jaguars, however, with the ball on their own two-yard line. This would lead to an Ifeadi Odenigbo safety on James Robinson to extend the Vikings lead to five and give them the ball back in excellent field position. With 14 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter and the Vikings with the ball on their own 38, it looked like this game was nearly over.
Three punts later and another Jacksonville fumble, this time by Chris Conley, the Vikings were able to add on three very big points by Dan Bailey to make it an eight-point game with 3:50 left in regulation. Mike Glennon had other plans as he led the Jaguars down the field and into the endzone, after a James Robinson rushing touchdown, to make it a two-point game with 1:08 left on the clock. Glennon then would find Collin Johnson for the two-point conversion to tie it all up. This meant that the Vikings had 1:08 and two timeouts to get Dan Bailey into field goal range for the game winning field goal.
With just 18 seconds left, the Vikings did do that and allowed Dan Bailey to attempt a game winning 51-yard field goal. Unfortunately, it was wide left and no good. This would allow the Jaguars 13 seconds to get into field goal range themselves, and with one second left on the clock, they did. Chase McLaughlin attempted a 62-yard field goal that was no good and would lead to free football between the Jaguars and the Vikings.
The overtime period opened up with the Vikings going three and out and then Mike Glennon throwing an interception to Harrison Smith, and after an 11 play, 41-yard drive, was concluded by Dan Bailey, 23 yards out, for the game winner.
Justin Jefferson would go on to finish with nine receptions for 121 yards and one score to help his case for Rookie of the Year. Adam Thielen added eight receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown as well.
This was a game that the Vikings could not afford to lose, and they didn’t. To make things even better, the Arizona Cardinals were defeated by the Los Angeles Rams which means the Vikings are now sitting in the final wild card spot in the NFC with a 6-6 record and them holding the tiebreaker over the Cardinals. The Vikings road to the playoffs will not get any easier as they head to Tampa Bay to take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers next week, and then Drew Brees and the Saints two weeks after.
A win over Tampa Bay would give the Vikings the second wild card spot and control if both teams end with the same record. This would be huge as four teams are 5-7 behind the Vikings eyeing to sneak into the playoffs.