MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings defense brought the noise in its first possession Sunday against the New York Jets. Its answer to its final challenge brought down the house at U.S. Bank Stadium.
With the Vikings clinging to a 27-22 lead with 1:19 left, Minnesota watched Jets quarterback Mike White take advantage of some short field position after a Vikings punt. White needed just two passes to advance the ball down to the Minnesota 19-yard line.
Minnesota then forced White into three consecutive incompletions, setting up a fourth-and-10 with 16 seconds remaining. White tried to find wide receiver Corey Davis across the middle in the end zone, but Vikings safety Camryn Bynum jumped in front of Davis for the game-sealing interception with 10 seconds left.
"Super slow motion, still a blur to me," Bynum said on his takeaway. "I still barely remember what went on, but I just know that they were running double in cuts to the field every single time. A lot of big plays they got was that route, in breaking from [the] number one [option], knowing that's a tough route for the corner, especially if he's outside leverage. I just shuffled in with the quarterback's eyes as soon as he came off the number two [option], jumped the 1-on-1, and that was the play."
Bynum's second interception of the season secured Minnesota's 10th victory and its ninth by a one-score margin.
"We have ultimate confidence. We are sitting here with 10 wins, and that's very hard to do. We are happy. We are confident, but at the end of the day, it's crazy because we always talk amongst ourselves about how much we have to improve and how much better we could be," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "We're happy we are getting these wins, but at the same time we are still wanting some more. I'm excited to see where we go. The great teams start playing even better in these next couple weeks, and I think we are on our way."
Things couldn't have started any better for the Vikings defense. On third-and-2 of the Jets' opening possession from their own 33-yard line, White's pass got deflected into the air before finding the hands of Harrison Smith. The Vikings safety then returned it eight yards before a lateral to cornerback Patrick Peterson gained a yard to the Jets 34-yard line with 13:25 left in the first quarter.
The interception by Smith was the 34th of his career, which is the most by any active player in the NFL, and his second in as many games against the Jets.
After the takeaway and a 51-yard field goal by Vikings kicker Greg Joseph, White and the Jets pieced together a 12-play, 45-yard drive before getting a 48-yard field goal from kicker Greg Zuerlein to tie things at 3-3 with 8:30 left in the first quarter.
Minnesota's defense then forced the Jets into three consecutive empty possessions. Offensively, the Vikings answered with three scoring drives of their own, getting touchdown runs by running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison with 13:02 and 3:35 left in the first half, respectively. Joseph then added a 41-yarder that pushed Minnesota's lead to 20-3 with 40 seconds left in the opening half.
The Jets refused to go away, though.
New York got a 60-yard field goal by Zuerlein right before halftime before two more third-quarter field goals of 36 and 30 yards trimmed the deficit to a one-score game at 20-12 with 59 seconds left in the third.
The Jets kept battling, and Zuerlein connected on another field goal — his fifth of the afternoon — from 26 yards out to make it 20-15 with 12:30 left.
A 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Justin Jefferson put the Vikings back up double digits, but the Jets still fought.
New York needed just five plays to march 75 yards. The Vikings forced the Jets into a fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 1-yard line and appeared to stop White on a sneak attempt. The Jets challenged the play and were rewarded with a touchdown to climb to within five at 27-22 with 6:45 left.
A Vikings punt gave the Jets the ball back 1:15 later, and New York used completions of 23 and 31 yards to Davis to advance to the Minnesota 16-yard line.
Davis nearly scored on the 31-yard reception, but Bynum was able to force him out of bounds.
Smith said Bynum has grown a lot already in just his second NFL season.
"He's capable of a lot. He's grown quite a bit. He came in a very good football player. … [I'm] still trying to give him little pointers here or there that I could pass along, but he's a ballplayer," Smith said. "He's complete, plays the pass really well, he tackles really well, he's very active. A big difference in the game."
The Jets were able to march down to the Vikings 1-yard line again, but linebacker Jordan Hicks came up with a critical pass breakup to turn New York over on downs with 1:39 left.
As a defense, Minnesota allowed 486 total yards to New York, which is tied for a season-high and is the seventh game this year the Vikings have given up at least 400 yards of offense.
View postgame celebration photos of the Vikings following their 27-22 win over the Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium.
White threw for 366 yards, including 248 in the second half.
"It's the explosives. We've just got to tackle a little bit better," Smith said. "You don't want yards. You want to limit those, but keeping them out of the end zone is the number one thing. We'll take that and try to cut those yards down."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell added improving in those situations is a continuous battle.
"I think you have to continue to look at it just because it just puts a lot of pressure on your football team and vice versa on the offensive side, trying to avoid times where we get a little stagnant and don't earn first downs to stay on the field and maybe allow our defense to rest a little bit more," O'Connell said.
"Time of possession was pretty close, [31:38 to 28:22], but it feels like offensively we could have done a better job in those moments to maintain kind of the ability to maintain that momentum, which then might have just made it a little bit easier for our team to not need it to come together in the end the way it did," O'Connell continued. "But you make — I think the confidence level of winning football games cannot be — it can't be replicated by, 'Hey, we lost one but we played great.' I think we'll always take coming in there and feeling the enthusiasm of a win over everything else."