MINNEAPOLIS – No one hung their heads at halftime.
The Vikings entered the locker room trailing 33-zip after "a thousand things had gone wrong," as Dalvin Cook said.
Truthfully? A win didn't seem likely. But that didn't stop Minnesota from giving its all in the second half.
"The majority of times in this league, if you're down 30-some points, there's usually not a lot you can do to come back from that," Vikings fullback C.J. Ham said. "But we came back to the locker room and said, 'Hey – no matter what happens, no matter what the score is, let it be that we ran out of time over anything else. Let's go out here and let's fight. Let's fight, let's scrap, let's make plays, let's put points on the board – whatever that looks like – until the clock hits zero.' "
The Vikings did just that, and somehow, some way, they put together the largest comeback in NFL history. The 39-36 overtime win secured Minnesota's NFC North crown and improved its record to 11-3 on the season.
Before that effort, noted Josh Dubow with The Associated Press¸ teams leading by 30-plus points were 1,548-1-1 in the regular season and playoffs since 1930.
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen also emphasized the never-give-up mentality instilled by Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
"The message at halftime was just, 'Hey, let's just show 'em our fight. Let's just show 'em who we really are. Let's not worry about what the score is. Let's not worry about coming back and doing all that – let's just show them who we really are and let everything else play out,' " Thielen said. "That's what we did."
During that same halftime meeting, cornerback Patrick Peterson encouraged his teammates, telling them, "We just have to go score five touchdowns."
But the Vikings had to start with one, and they got it via K.J. Osborn.
With just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins found Osborn for an incredible 63-yard reception that advanced Minnesota to the Indianapolis 4.
"I don't even remember what coverage it was, but I just kind of knew it was me 1-on-1 with the linebacker, and if I got over top of him, it was going to be a big play," Osborn said. "Kind of skimmed him down, stuck him, and Kirk saw the same thing I did, and we were able to execute. That was a big play."
Just a minute later and on third-and-goal from the 2, Cousins connected with Osborn for the short touchdown. A 33-7 game is still a heck of a deficit, but Minnesota clung to the momentum.
View postgame celebration photos from Minnesota's comeback overtime victory over Indianapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 17, 2022. The Vikings (11-3) have clinched the NFC North Championship following their 39-36 win vs. the Colts.
"We said, 'Let's keep going. Chopping wood. We weren't trying to look at the scoreboard; we're just trying to execute and try to get another score, try to get another score," Osborn said. "Our defense was coming up big for us. We had some great punts and field position battle and different things like that. It was a great team win after we got the momentum and started chopping away."
Osborn recorded his first career 100-yard day, finishing his outing with 10 catches for 157 yards and one touchdown.
Cook actually was surprised to learn it had been Osborn's first time surpassing the benchmark, because he's so accustomed to seeing the receiver make plays at clutch times.
"He does all the dirty work. He does all the things necessary for us to go win the game, so you'd think he had a hundred-yard game already," Cook said. "One of those guys that's just team-first and just battles for us."
Osborn smiled beneath the NFC North Champs baseball cap, noting that his family had been at U.S. Bank Stadium for the performance.
"I've been working really, really hard, and I'm happy that this day came," he said. "My mom, my family was here to see it, and obviously we got the win with it. A career day. I'm so blessed. I've been working for this opportunity, so I'm happy."
Following Osborn's touchdown, Minnesota's defense held the Colts to a field goal that extended their lead to 36-7.
The Vikings kept chipping away, though.
Cook started the next drive with a 19-yard run, then followed it up with a 12-yard catch. Justin Jefferson made an 18-yard grab after that, and Osborn gained another 15 yards two plays later. Shortly thereafter, Cousins handed off to Ham for the Vikings second TD.
"Our defense played unbelievable in the second half, and we were able on offense to have some explosive plays and make this comeback a reality," Ham said.
After forcing the Colts to punt, Minnesota started off the fourth quarter with a Jefferson touchdown drive.
Another Colts punt, another Vikings possession, but this time it ended with an interception by Colts safety Rodney Thomas II.
Again, no giving up.
Minnesota forced a three-and-punt by Indy, and the Vikings moved down the field – starting with a 19-yard play by Thielen – and added a Thielen touchdown that cut the deficit to 8.
On the Colts next series, running back Deon Jackson fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Chandon Sullivan. The cornerback ran the ball into the end zone for a should-be touchdown, but officials had prematurely ruled the play dead and did not award Sullivan the score.
A review by the replay official at least proved the ball came out before Jackson's progress stopped.
The Vikings had another opportunity but saw a trio of incompletions and then a fourth-and-15 on which Cousins tried to get away from pressure but was tackled short of the sticks. Indianapolis had an unsuccessful drive of its own, and Minnesota got the ball back with 2:28 left in regulation.
Cousins tossed a short pass to Cook, who dipped and dodged his way down inside the 5, then somehow wrestled into the end zone with help from Ezra Cleveland. A 2-point conversion executed by T.J. Hockenson tied the game.
"Man, I was like, 'Ezra, keep me up. I'm tired,' " Cook laughed of the Vikings left guard who hustled down the field. "It's just one of those moments, man, just will yourself in the end zone. We knew we had to get one quick, and that was the one we had to get. We executed it to a T. The O-line got out, receivers blocked. I don't know how Ezra ended up down there in front of me, but he was down there. I've gotta go watch it."
Peterson watched the one-play scoring drive from the sideline.
"I was like, 'Go, go, go Dalvin! Score quick so we can get back on the field, get you guys the ball back so we can go win it,' " Peterson said. "There were just so many great plays today, so many great moments. Unbelievable. It really is."
Getting to overtime was all the Vikings needed.
Though their first offensive drive was unsuccessful, Minnesota's defense clamped down and gave the Colts no other choice but to punt.
The Vikings drove steadily down the field until just 7 seconds remained on the clock, and Greg Joseph hit the game-winning, 40-yard field goal.
"It was awesome. I'm really happy for Greg," Vikings tackle Brian O'Neill said. "When he got up there, I'm like, 'Oh, he's gonna drill this.' "
Added Ham: "That's G-Money. We're gonna ride with Greg no matter what. … The dude is a great kicker, he's a great person, and all of us had 100-percent confidence that if he got that opportunity, he was going to capitalize on it. And he did."
O'Connell praised his team's resolve following the roller-coaster game – which the Vikings at one point were given a 0.4-percent chance of winning.
"First and foremost, you've got to believe it yourself. I think the one thing in this league is if you're not authentic and real, those 53 guys in there will notice," O'Connell said. "I've built that up with these guys over a long period of time. They knew both at halftime and after the game, they know I mean every word I say to them in any moment. Good or bad, I'm going to consistently be me every single day because I just don't know any other way.
"I can trust that I've got the right guys here, the leadership of our football team," O'Connell added. "I don't know if you can say enough about some of those guys throughout our season in the different moments. I'm not just talking about the eight captains; I'm talking about the 22-plus players that received votes to be captain on our team."
The Vikings now have three games – versus the Giants, at Green Bay and at Chicago – before returning home to host a playoff game. The opponent has yet to be decided, with Minnesota still a possibility for the No. 1, 2 or 3 seed. The Vikings are currently in the No. 2 spot, with the 49ers (10-4) trying to chase them.
Emotion came over the usually smiling Cook as he spoke to reporters postgame. He tightened a bit as he worked to compose himself.
"You easily fall short right there. You can easily say, 'We're down 33 points; let's just go ahead [and say] they've got it today. Let's try again next week,' " he said. "Not this group. It's a different group, a different mentality. We've got some great leaders, and I appreciate these guys.
"You look around and see how much we sacrifice every day, really, and this is the outcome we get – [NFC] North champs," Cook added. "All the hard work we put in, there's still a lot left for us to go do, but step one is a checked box right now. We can put that behind us and go back to work."