MINNEAPOLIS – Death, taxes and 2021 Vikings games coming down to the wire.
It seems almost a guarantee that Minnesota's contests will end in dramatic fashion this season, and Sunday proved no different.
Despite the fact the Vikings at two points held double-digit leads against the Packers, the Border Battle featured three scores inside the final 2:20. The final was a walk-off field goal complements of Greg Joseph that lifted Minnesota 34-31 over its division rival.
After a one-play Green Bay possession started and ended by a 75-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Vikings drove the ball back into Packers territory rather quickly. Sitting at first-and-goal from the 7 with 1:19 left on the clock, however, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted against trying for a touchdown.
"We hadn't stopped them the whole second half, and I didn't want [Aaron Rodgers] to have the ball. So I figured the best place to win the game was him on the bench," Zimmer said.
Dalvin Cook could have potentially scored on the previous play but stopped in-bounds after a 12-yard gain, forcing the Packers to use their second timeout.
"I wanted to score so bad. Just to end the game," Cook admitted postgame. "But I knew I couldn't get Aaron Rodgers the football. He's a hell of a player. It's just being aware of the situation to get down."
The Vikings downed the ball twice, draining the clock to 0:02, and gave Joseph the field for a 29-yard attempt.
"[I was] locked in, ready for the opportunity. Ready for the kick," Joseph said. "As soon as [Green Bay] scored, I was like, 'Hey, let's go win this thing.' That was my mindset the whole time."
Joseph helped the Vikings do just that.
The attempt was a rather short one by NFL standards, sure, but everyone – and especially Vikings fans – understand there's no such thing as a "gimme" in the NFL. So when the ball sailed through the yellow uprights, Joseph received a well-deserved reception from a packed U.S. Bank Stadium.
Vikings teammates engulfed Joseph following the victory-sealing play, lifting the kicker up to their shoulders and carrying him off the field.
"It all becomes a blur pretty fast. I just always try to go to my linemen because, you know, they're helping me make the kick. I wouldn't be able to do it without them," Joseph said. "I try to high-five everyone, but before I know it, I get swarmed and some of the guys were picking me up.
"I don't even know who … the pictures will tell," he added with a smile.
Joseph called the postgame feeling "amazing" but retained his almost stoic posture for much of the postgame press conference. He consistently emphasizes not getting too high or too low emotionally, and he's certainly demonstrated that throughout his first season in Minnesota.
After all, Sunday's game wasn't the first time Joseph has been faced with a high-pressure situation.
Against the Bengals in Week 1, Joseph kicked a 53-yard field goal to send the game into overtime and give Minnesota a shot. The following week at Arizona, he pulled a 37-yarder wide right with 4 seconds remaining. Joseph helped the Vikings notch a walk-off win against Detroit when he executed a 54-yard attempt, and he missed a 47-yard field goal in Carolina with 6 seconds on the clock, but the Vikings did go on to prevail in overtime.
Now he can add this game-winner to his résumé.
"Every week prepares you, and every week is a lesson," Joseph said. "I try to use them all and have a toolbox, absolutely. Even if we don't get the opportunity, I'm mentally preparing myself for scenarios like this."
Joseph's walk-off field goal capped a day in which he'd earlier made a 51-yarder and went 2-of-3 on extra points.
"I know what I did. Just a mistake, and pushed it out. Forgot about it real quick, because I knew I had bigger kicks to come," he said of the missed PAT.
The Vikings improved to 5-5 after Sunday's win and will next look to defeat the 49ers as they continue pursuing a postseason spot.
"A great team win. Everyone in there busted their butts, and credit to the Packers for an awesome game," Joseph said. "We know we have a good team in here, and we fought, and credit to all the guys in their locker (room) and our locker room, as well.
"It feels absolutely amazing being able to put a W in the column for the guys in the locker room and to see how happy everyone is, and how it makes all the hard work pay off," he added. "Everything I do, every play I play is to put the team in a better position to win, and I'm thankful to be able to do that today, and it's awesome to see the guys like that. On to the next, now.
Reset. On to San Fran."