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Vikings Offense Bounces Back from Miscues with Big Plays

MINNEAPOLIS – It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it.

The Vikings started the third quarter behind the 8 ball after a pick-six by Joe Schobert on the first snap of the half put the Jaguars up by 10.

Minnesota's offense had struggled through two quarters leading up to the interception but refused to roll over. Instead, Kirk Cousins kept his head in the game and helped the Vikings fight back and outlast the Jaguars for a 27-24 overtime win.

"Ultimately, we won the game and that's all that matters. [But] you don't want to win every game like the way we had to do it today," Cousins said.

The Vikings answered Schobert's touchdown with a score of their own, driving down the field and finding fullback C.J. Ham for a 12-yard play that ended in the paint. It marked the third career touchdown (second receiving) for Ham, whose custom-designed cleats for Sunday's My Cause My Cleats game honored the memory of his mom, Tina.

Cousins said there's "always a lot of confidence" in Ham.

"When he touches the ball like he did on the pitch last week and on the flat pass this week, he's natural," Cousins said. "He's a college running back, and in his first year here with the Vikings, he was a true running back so that's natural with him. We've got to find as many ways as we can to get him involved because when the ball's in his hands, he makes people miss, he finishes plays well."

On Jacksonville's ensuing drive, Minnesota's defense notched a third-down sack of Mike Glennon and returned possession back to Cousins and Company.

The Vikings drove down the field, assisted in part by Jacksonville being flagged for roughing the passer (15 yards) and defensive pass interference (18 yards), the latter setting up Minnesota at the 20-yard line. Cousins faked a handoff to Dalvin Cook, rolled to his left and threw to Justin Jefferson, who secured his seventh touchdown of the season.

Fans viewing the replay enjoyed watching Jefferson juke Jaguars cornerback Luq Barcoo and cut back to the end zone.

"It was a double move," Jefferson said. "Just faking the over-cross [route] and going back to the pylon."

With the touchdown catch, Jefferson passed 1,000 yards on the season. He later overtook Hall of Famer Randy Moss (1,014) for the receiving yards by a Vikings rookie through 12 games.

His total of nine catches for 121 yards on the day brought his season total to 1,039 yards and counting, the second most by a rookie through 12 games in the Super Bowl era (Odell Beckham, Jr., in 2014).

"It feels amazing. It feels good to have goals at the beginning of the season and then achieve those goals. It's definitely amazing. I'm looking to keep going," Jefferson said of reaching the benchmark. "I know it's not likely as a rookie [to reach 1,000 yards]. That's just a goal that I had in the back of my mind. That's what I wanted to do achieve. I just come out here and get the job done."

Despite Dan Bailey missing the extra point following Jefferson's touchdown, the Vikings still sat in an OK place, up 19-16.

Jordan Brailford forced and recovered a fumble by Glennon, and the Vikings once again drove down the field and near the goal line. The final 15 minutes of regulation continued to be a roller coaster, though.

Cousins and Cook fumbled the exchange on the first snap of the fourth quarter, turning the ball over at the 2.

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

"It was a little loose, and Dalvin felt like he needed to get the ball quickly. Otherwise, he was still going to be reaching for it while getting tackled," Cousins explained. "He was concerned about that, so he kind of went for the ball before I was giving it to him, and then the pocket got closed and it ended up not being a clean exchange.

"It's just one of those plays that you're just very agitated, very frustrated when you head to the sideline because you feel like you're gifting the other team an opportunity and taking away six points from your team," Cousins added. "It's bad enough to have that happen once."

Three plays later, Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo sacked Glennon in the end zone for a safety and preserved a positive outcome for Minnesota.

The Vikings next two possessions ended in punts by Britton Colquitt; on the third, Bailey made a 48-yard field goal to put Minnesota up 24-16. Jacksonville responded with a touchdown drive and successful 2-point conversion to tie the game.

Minnesota had just over a minute to make something happen offensively, but the Jaguars defense forced a 51-yard attempt by Bailey that went wide left.

When Jacksonville's last-ditch-effort, 62-yard field goal attempt also was no good, the teams entered the overtime showdown.

Nothing went right on the Vikings opening drive that ended in a punt, and things felt bleak for a few moments before Harrison Smith entered the picture. "The Hitman" intercepted Glennon at the Jacksonville 36, and Minnesota was back in business.

The Vikings relied on a heavy dose of Cook for the game's final drive.

The running back recorded eight carries for 31 yards, including rushes of 10 and 11 yards, respectively, to put the Vikings at the 1-yard line.

"I think it was a combination of Dalvin running really hard and giving everything he had but also our offensive line, our tight ends, even our receivers were getting involved in blocking for the run game," Cousins said. "C.J. Ham did a really good job, as well, of just continuing to fit up on his linebacker or safety, whoever he had to block. So great effort by them, and I think they took pride in that at the end of the game to put it on their shoulders and find the way to run the ball to a win."

When a false start penalty backed Minnesota up to third-and-goal from the 5, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted then to take three points over six.

Bailey kicked the game-winning field goal from 23-yards out for the Vikings second comeback win in as many weeks.

"Usually after you win a game, there's a lot of hootin' and hollerin' going on in the locker room," Zimmer said. "The last two weeks, it hasn't been like that because they know they can play way better than what they're playing. I think right now they feel fortunate to be where we are, but they understand – I know they understand and I'm trying to continue to preach it – that we have to stop doing these things that's going to cost us games down the road.

"If we stop doing those things, and we continue to play with the heart and the fight and the things that we have, then we've got a chance to play," Zimmer added. "But the last two weeks, you come in the locker room, and it's more relieved than it is excited. And that's probably a good thing because I think they know where they're at in this world right now."

After starting the season 1-5, Minnesota has now clawed its way to 6-6 and potentially into the postseason conversation. The Vikings now have games remaining at Tampa Bay, against Chicago, at New Orleans and at Detroit.

With Arizona's loss Sunday evening, Minnesota moved to seventh in the NFC standings via a tiebreaker, which would be good enough for the final playoff spot.

"We'll enjoy the win tonight, but you also have to go back and look critically at every play just like you always do. Think about how you can be better and how you can improve. Now as we enter the final four games of the regular season — the fourth quarter, if you will — we have to be at our best," Cousins said. "We have some good teams we have to play and we're going to need our best football to have a shot to get into the playoffs.

"I'm proud of the fact that after starting 1-5, we've been able to get back to .500," he continued. "As we said at the bye week, where those 10 games would tell the story of the season remaining, I think the remaining four games are really going to tell the story. It's all out in front of us."