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Vikings Defense Corrals Colts with Relentless Approach

MINNEAPOLIS — Halftime can give teams an opportunity to start things over, no matter what the score is.

For the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday's intermission against the Colts was the ultimate reset button.

Nothing went right for the Vikings in the first half — in any phase. Defensively, Minnesota allowed Indianapolis to score on four of its five possessions (with help from multiple short fields) in the opening half to take a 33-point lead.

Despite the monumental deficit, linebacker Jordan Hicks said there was no panic in the Vikings locker room at halftime.

"We came in here. We looked at the plays just like every half, looked at the plays we had given up, talked about how we needed to play them," Hicks said. "There was a speech that it's going to take one drive at a time, and when adversity strikes, who are we going to be. Every single person on this team answered."

What transpired in the second half had to been seen to be believed in what became a 39-36 overtime victory.

The Vikings outscored the Colts 36-3 in the final 30 minutes of regulation, including a 64-yard touchdown from quarterback Kirk Cousins to running back Dalvin Cook and a 2-point conversion to tight end T.J. Hockenson to tie the game with 2:15 left.

Greg Joseph connected on a 40-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in overtime to seal the victory.

Minnesota's 33-point comeback marks the largest come-from-behind victory in NFL history. The win not only gave the Vikings their 11th win of the season, but it secured the NFC North title for the first time since 2017.

"We're just resilient," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "A locker room full of guys that believe in one another, guys that understand what we have in this locker room is very special and we don't want to waste this moment. We want to cherish this moment, continue to make the best of our opportunities. We're all living on the edge just a little bit, but when you can win in these types of games, these types of moments — no matter what the circumstances are — the confidence level just continues to grow."

After setting a franchise record with five consecutive games allowing more than 400 yards of offense to opponents, the Vikings defense gave up just 341 yards — including 132 total yards in the second half and overtime combined.

"That second half was absolutely dominant," Hicks said. "We stopped the run, knew they were going to try to run the clock. At the end of the day, we talk about the marriage between the coverage and rush, and our rush was getting there, making [Colts quarterback] Matt Ryan uncomfortable. Our DBs were sticky on the back end."

The Vikings had their backs against the wall right from the opening kickoff. Indianapolis used a 49-yard return by Dallis Flowers to set up a 26-yard field goal from kicker Chase McLaughlin.

The Colts then blocked a punt that was returned 24 yards for a touchdown by linebacker JoJo Domann before adding three more field goals and a pick-six to build the sizeable halftime lead.

Minnesota nearly had a defensive touchdown in the first half. On third-and-10 with 7:03 left in the second quarter, Ryan found wide receiver Michael Pittman, Jr., for a 2-yard gain to the Indianapolis 40-yard line.

Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II forced the ball loose from Pittman's grasp. Cornerback Chandon Sullivan then secured the fumble and returned it for a touchdown, but the officials ruled that Pittman's progress had been stopped prior to the turnover.

After a punt to start the second half, Indianapolis used five plays to get to the Vikings 34-yard line before a 52-yard field goal by McLaughlin pushed the Colts advantage to 36-7 with 4:53 left in the third quarter.

From that point on, it was all Minnesota.

The Vikings forced three consecutive Indianapolis punts before Minnesota was on the wrong end of another controversial call in the fourth quarter.

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.

On first-and-10 from the Colts 38-yard line, Indianapolis running back Deon Jackson gained a yard before Vikings outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith jarred the ball free.

Sullivan picked it up and returned it 39 yards for another would-be scoop-and-score with 3:25 left, but the officials ruled Jackson was down by contact before losing the ball. A replay review showed he was still upright and moving forward when the ball came out, but because the play had been stopped by officials, the touchdown didn't count.

"I just kind of picked it up because there was nobody around me, the ball was just sitting there," Sullivan said. "I saw the ball come out, I picked it up and I just took off and ran."

So the Vikings took over after a 15-yard penalty on Sullivan, who threw his helmet in frustration.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell added he understood why Sullivan was upset with the second call that overturned his score.

"The first one, they just ruled forward progress stopped. When they do that, doesn't matter if I agree or disagree with the call. It's out of my hands at that point. I cannot challenge that," O'Connell said. "Then I was able to challenge the other one and get that ball out, get that ball back. Some of those stops defensively we had, we just kept on urging them to keep going at the football, see if we can change the game, which we thought we did at that one point, but unfortunately we didn't. Sully is one of those guys that keeps battling. Veteran player, smart, tough. You don't win a game like this and hold the team to three points in the second half without guys like Sully gutting it out."

The Vikings turned it over on downs on their ensuing possession, giving the Colts solid field position at their own 44 with 2:52 left. Indianapolis was faced with a fourth-and-1 from Minnesota's 36-yard line and elected to go for it after the Vikings had called their final timeout.

View game action photos of the Week 15 matchup between the Vikings and the Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Ryan tried to plunge forward on a sneak attempt, but Hicks and fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks came up with the defensive stand to give Minnesota the ball with 2:28 left.

One play later, Cook found the end zone and the game was tied.

The two sides traded punts to end regulation before the Vikings punted on their first drive in overtime.

Indianapolis tried to answer, but Minnesota was able to force the Colts to punt before Joseph's kick completed the comeback.

O'Connell said although the defense was put in an extremely challenging situation, he was proud of how they made the necessary adjustments to allow the offense to rally.

"I'm really proud of our defense. You don't come back in a game like this, hold a team to three points. We had to be aggressive with some decision making early on. Gave them short fields," O'Connell said. "Even though we didn't help them, those guys never flinched, never looked to the other phases of our offense or special teams. Shoot, I thought [Defensive Coordinator] Ed [Donatell] in the second half [had] really timely pressures, losing Pat P. for some stretches there, guys tightening it up. A lot of people had a hand in this one. Our defense, we don't get it done without those guys."

As for where this game ranks in his career, Peterson said it can't be beat (for now).

"Number one, by far," Peterson said. "[The win at] Buffalo was number one prior to this one. But this is number one by far."

Hicks added it's a special feeling being a part of this team.

"I've never been around anything like it," Hicks said. "We talk about it quite a bit that this is going to be a year we remember for the rest of our lives. We're going to remember these moments, but we're going to remember the relationships and the conversations we had, how we went from a brand new staff and a brand new team and were able to accomplish things together that no other team has done."