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Vikings Defense Forces 4 Turnovers in OT Win vs. Jaguars

MINNEAPOLIS — Sunday's performance from the Vikings defense was much like what we've seen for most of the 2020 season.

Some good: a season-high four takeaways, plus a safety.

Some bad: Minnesota was flat early, and once again couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead.

And some weird: Jacksonville's first score came off a ricocheted pass.

But throw it all in the blender and you get a 27-24 overtime win for the Vikings, a crucial win that helps Minnesota keep pace in the NFC playoff picture.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer summed up the wild win that took 68 minutes and 11 seconds of game time to complete.

"I have mixed feelings to be honest with you. It's good to get a win," Zimmer said. "It was important for us to get a win today. We didn't play particularly well at times.

"There wasn't a lot of hooting and hollering in the locker room the last two weeks," Zimmer added. "They know we have to do better to continue to win games."

The Vikings allowed 390 yards and 17 points to an offense that entered the game ranked 25th in yards per game and were 28th in points scored per game. The other seven points scored by Jacksonville resulted from an interception return touchdown to open the second half.

But Minnesota did it without All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks, who was a late scratch with a calf injury. Kendricks popped up on the injury report Thursday, but appeared good to go. But he re-aggravated the injury in pregame warmups and didn't play.

"Obviously we had to make some adjustments with guys playing a little different positions and things like that," Zimmer said. "But anything could have happened … there's all kinds of things that can happen on game day. This isn't the first time that this has ever happened that somebody can't start the game."

Added rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler: "It was tough because E.K., he's a big part of our defense. He's a leader, but we all have that mentality: Next man up. And Todd Davis, he was ready, and he went out and he played really well today, and we got the win."

Dantzler played a key role in the Vikings takeaways, as he recorded an interception, forced fumble and recovered Sunday. He is the only rookie defender in the NFL to do so in the same game this season.

The Vikings were flat early, allowing 141 yards and nine points on Jacksonville's first two possessions.

With the Jaguars still up early in the second quarter, Dantzler picked off Mike Glennon for the first interception of his career. That led to a touchdown by the Vikings offense.

"I just happened to be in the right position at the right time and made a play to get our offense going," Dantzler said. "They scored on that drive, and we just kept it going from there."

Added Zimmer: "I think it gave us a little confidence going forward. It was a nice play by him. They were running a drive route. It was good. It's the first pick one of our corners has gotten all year, so that's a start."

Dantzler made another big play in the fourth quarter, with the Vikings holding a 21-16 lead. He stripped Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley of the ball and recovered the pigskin, which eventually led to a Dan Bailey field goal.

"I have to give kudos to the defensive coordinator and Coach Zimmer, they called a great game for the defensive guys and just put me in the right position to make plays," Dantzler said.

Jordan Brailford — a defensive end playing in his first NFL game — was also part of a pair of game-changing plays.

Brailford, who was added to the roster in mid-October, also forced a recovered a fumble late in the third quarter. And although that play didn't lead to any points, he helped the Vikings defense get on the scoreboard on the next Jaguars possession.

Brailford pressured Glennon in the end zone as Ifeadi Odenigbo recorded a sack for a safety.

That handful of big plays didn't go unnoticed by Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who credited that unit for helping steady the tide on an uneven day for his unit.

View game-action images as the Vikings take on the Jaguars during Week 13 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"A lot of credit goes to our defense and some of the plays they made, like getting a safety and the turnovers they created and the stops they had on third down, to where our mistakes on offense don't end up doing us in," Cousins said.

It wasn't 100-percent pretty for the Vikings defense after the slow start, as Minnesota did allow Jacksonville to drive 75 yards for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 24 with 68 seconds to go.

But the defense rose up once again in overtime, as Harrison Smith secured a diving interception in Jaguars territory to help set up the eventual game-winning field goal.

So, no, it wasn't a perfect outing for the Vikings defense on Sunday. But with so much roster turnover and a boatload of young players seeing the field, perhaps it won't be in the final four games of 2020.

But Minnesota is 6-6 and in the race for a Wild Card spot, and the Vikings defense made just enough plays Sunday to ensure that was the case.

"Coach Zimmer … he just wants to take it day-by-day, week-by-week, game-by-game," Dantzler said. "The next game is always the most important game. It was a good win, a hard-fought team win.

"He just wants to move forward and make the corrections on what we need to make corrections on and get ready for the next game," Dantzler added.