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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fans' Reactions to Vikings vs. Colts & Largest Comeback in NFL History

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. If Twitter is your jam, you can send a question to me that way as well.

Somehow, someway, the Vikings willed themselves to a 39-36 overtime victory after hitting the Saturday snooze button and spotting Indianapolis 33 points by halftime.

The comeback was the largest in ages in NFL history (regular season or postseason) and is a testament to the resolve and the solid foundation that exists in the Vikings locker room.

I was 12 years old when the Bills orchestrated their remarkable 32-point comeback over the Oilers in January 1993 for the previous high. That was prior to the Oilers moving to Tennessee and later being renamed the Titans, so we'd get a lot of Bills games back then and pretend in yard games that we were Jim Kelly, Andre Reed and James Lofton (sorry, Frank Reich, I don't think you ever made it into our rotation). I remember watching that game, and I personally think it had a slight role in the Oilers leaving Houston. That squad was built to win a Super Bowl, and I think it would have been neck and neck with the Cowboys that year. A stadium dispute might have been easier to resolve not far removed from the first Lombardi Trophy won by the organization.

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.

Having watched that unbelievable game and the documentaries on it, I'm eager to see what recreations will occur of Saturday's instant classic and record setter that happened to clinch the NFC North for the Vikings.

There were a few more empty seats at the opening kickoff, possibly for some messy road conditions, but once folks were there, they brought it and nearly brought the house down.

Head Coach Kevin O'Connell made sure to credit the fans who were able to attend.

"I can't say enough about our fans. Although I felt it and heard some of the rightly due displeasure with our team in the first half, the moment that we could get some enthusiasm back in this building, no matter how farfetched it seemed that we could come back, our fans were right there," O'Connell said. "You felt them. Unbelievable. I don't know if I've heard a building like that, like we did in the end. That energy is really what pushed us all year. When we needed them the most, they were at their best."

On to the questions (as a reminder, we'll update with more Monday).

This will probably be a game that I remember for the rest of my life! My wife and I wanted to take our son to his first Vikings game all season and finally decided to get the tickets for the Colts game. At about halftime, he was completely checked out and asked to go home, but I told him the game was only half over and anything could happen. I'm so glad we stayed because it was an experience of a lifetime!! By the time it was 36-21, he was jumping up and down and participating in every SKOL Chant (his favorite part). I say this with a bit of reserve, but this year has really been something special and different. There's something special to see the players rallying around each other and the passion from Coach O'Connell in his locker room speeches. I don't think anyone is really expecting us to do much in the playoffs, but that's exactly what happened in 2019 when we went on to beat the Saints. Regardless of what happens, I know the future is bright, and we'll be cheering for them no matter what the situation!

— Joshua Karow

MailbagFan (1)

I think football is amazing because of the teamwork required, there's usually some type of adversity to overcome that often provides life lessons or encouragement. Throw in amazing athleticism, crowds like the one Saturday and some quick offensive execution and repeated defensive stops, and that was one for the ages.

The Vikings this season have had numerous thrilling wins, improving to 10-0 in one-score games. I know how everyone wants the Vikings to end their Super Bowl curse, but I again encourage folks to appreciate whatever lies ahead as it unfolds. It's hard to believe that there are only three regular-season games remaining.

Minnesota is guaranteed to host at least one home playoff game, too.

Let the doubters continue to doubt, but let the believers continue to believe. The latter has more in common with the folks in the locker room.

First time this year to send you a note.

Of course, the talk will be "amazing comeback." And it was, of course. But shout out to P2 — halftime quote "just 5 TDs" — and the single best defensive performance of the year. FIVE field goals and ONE touchdown allowed. That's under 25 points allowed. Short fields all day. Tough in red zone. Better pressure. Duke Shelley making huge stops on third down. Stops in fourth quarter and OT. Much maligned unit and has been a concern, but give the defense some credit this week. SKOL.

— Tim Burkard (lifetime purple bleeder in Texas)

I love the Mailbag because it's an opportunity to connect with fans and start to get to know some who email regularly, as well as the opportunity to include first-timers.

I was super excited when Patrick Peterson announced he was re-signing with Minnesota this offseason because I thought his veteran prowess could be so beneficial to a team in transition. He's been through so many of those in his career and has provided incredible leadership and a high level of play this season. It's only the second time that Peterson has been able to wear a division hat and shirt during his storied career. He's deserved to be part of more special seasons than that, but it's clear how much he truly values what the Vikings have in this season.

I also appreciate you pointing out the role the defense played in enabling that comeback. Bad field position numerous times, plus the blocked punt returned for the touchdown and the pick-six led to a worse score than the group deserved, but they were unfazed by anything and rose to the occasion. Also love the callout for Shelley, who played admirably. He recorded two of the three passes defensed by the Vikings and made a couple of great tackles shy of the sticks. Shelley is only 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, but his heart exceeds his frame. It's how he chopped down Michael Pittman, Jr., (6-4, 223 pounds) late in regulation.

When the Vikings defense is allowed to play aggressive, they seem SOOOO much better. Otherwise, they look flat footed and knocked around. Let's hope that aggressive stance can be our regular stance.

— Patrick Strain in Onalaska, Wisconsin

The Vikings offense and special teams offense in the first half didn't do much to help the defense, and O'Connell was mindful of that after the game. O'Connell credited Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell for timing some key pressures and the defense for overcoming Peterson suffering some cramps.

"I think we need to analyze how poorly we did at supporting them today, both special teams and offense. I'm really proud of our defense. You don't come back in a game like this, hold a team to three points [in the second half]. We had to be aggressive with some decision making early on. Gave them short fields. 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 Ed (Donatell) in the second half 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 today without those guys."

The Vikings were able to pressure Matt Ryan and did a better job of challenging receivers and tackling after any receptions than in recent weeks. I thought Danielle Hunter had a spectacular game, Za'Darius Smith was a force and the tackling by the entire team was much better than the past couple of weeks.

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

I watched that game. First of all, that was amazing, but I kept watching it and it seemed like they kept putting in Brian Asamoah II in place of Jordan Hicks just like last game. Do you expect Asamoah to get more play time as the season wraps up?

— Connor in Mahtomedi, Minnesota

Hicks went from not practicing on Tuesday because of an ankle to being limited Wednesday to fully participating Thursday to starting Saturday and making meaningful plays. He's been a strong difference-maker for the team this season and has paired so well with Eric Kendricks as Kendricks has adapted to Minnesota's new defense.

That said, I think the Vikings are trying to make sure to get Asamoah some pertinent on-the-job training. The first is the athletic talent level he showed in the preseason, the second is if Asamoah is needed to step in because of injury, he'll have logged some game reps, and the third is because this staff has been so mindful of the mileage put on players, going all the way back to the offseason and even during the games in attempts to optimize performance.

I know it's the Colts, but we can't spot any team 33 points and try to snatch victory from the apparent jaws of defeat. But I stayed with purple, and the team came together. Wish I could have heard what was said at the half because whatever was said needs to be bottled for next week. I do have a question for you. Why were we not awarded a TD on that late fumble recovery. I felt their frustration.

— Nicholas

P.S. Game ball to K.J. Osborn

Prior to Saturday, teams with a 30-plus point lead at halftime were 1,548-1-1 since 1930, so it's ill-advised to spot anyone that amount.

The Vikings did a great job of mounting the comeback by pairing defensive stops and quick touchdown drives in the second half. The final score to tie the game and force overtime was an incredible 64-yard catch-and-run by Dalvin Cook on a short screen (followed by a 2-point conversion pass to T.J. Hockenson).

Officials ruled that Deon Jackson's forward progress had been stopped before the fumble. The current replay rules allow for officials to overturn the stop of forward progress if the ball is clearly out. It definitely way, and even though Chandon Sullivan cleanly picked it up while standing on his two feet and returned it, the play was ruled over because the initial call was forward progress, so the Vikings took over at the spot of the recovery.

Former Vikings receiver Nate Burleson worked the game for NFL Network as the analyst and said the following in real time:

"That ball popped out early. That ball popped out early. There is no way this is a close call," Burleson said. "That should be a scoop-and-score fumble recovery. Za'Darius Smith popped it out. Chandon Sullivan picked it up and took it to the crib."

Wheeew!! How do you give up 33 points in a half and three in the next half? Still think it's time to change out Donatell. We have too many good players to allow these yards. We won't go far in playoffs!!

— Toby in Alaska

Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong in the first half. 33 to O is a big mountain to climb. We outscored the Colts 39 to 3 in the second half and gained the victory. Skol!!!! What was the halftime speech?

— Gerald Goblirsch

I love reading the column every Monday as I've been a Vikes Fan since 1961 and was at the last game at Metropolitan Stadium.

I have never been more frustrated with a coach since Les Steckel than I am with Donatell.

We have two of the BEST pass rushes in the league and we don't unleash them!! I tape every game, and I'm SO tired of seeing them in pass coverage!!

Our secondary has been decimated with injuries so we NEED to get after the quarterback and we don't!!!

This defense has talent that isn't be used in the right way, and it will cost us while we have a really good offense!

— Bryan

Field position was a gigantic part of the Colts having the first half they did, along with a special teams score on a blocked punt and a pick-six to account for 14 of those points.

The Colts started every possession in the first half and third quarter beyond their 25-yard. This included their own 48 after the opening kickoff return and twice at the Minnesota 31 after a failed run on fourth-and-1 and an incompletion on a fake punt on fourth-and-1. The defense limited the Colts to field goals on each of those three possessions.

As for Coach Donatell, here's what Hicks said after the game:

"Ed is a great defensive coordinator. He listens to his players, understands the situations. A great teacher, motivator. He brings us together. I know y'all (the media) talk, but Ed has done an amazing job this year of keeping everybody in the right frame of mind and moving forward."

As to Bryan's comments on pass rushers, he's referring to Hunter and Smith, and based on the inbox, he's not alone in wanting to see those guys do what they do best.

I thought back to what former defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson used to say, equating a player's sack rate to batting average, but pointing out that even the very best at sacking the quarterback don't have great batting averages. It's just stacking opportunities and finishing the plays one wins.

This next week will provide an extra challenge, given the way the Giants don't mind running the ball with QB Daniel Jones.

Minnesota Vikings pre-game locker room conversation before playing the Colts:

Coach O'Connell: "OK, team, this is our first half strategy. We are going to let the Colts score on us as much as they can during the first half of the game, and we won't score a point!"

What do you say Jefferson, 21 points?

"Sounds good coach!"

What about you Thielen?

"I say 28 points coach!"

Sounds good, but what about you Cook?

"Coach let's go for 33 — my old jersey number!"

"That's it 33!" says O'Connell and he continues, "Here is the twist! We will come back in the locker room after halftime looking completely defeated for all to see. The commentators will have a field day during halftime talking about how we are pretenders, never felt we were real anyways and have just been lucky. That's when the fans will start thinking about leaving the stadium and the fans at home will turn the channel as to not see their beloved Vikings get skunked at home by the Colts. Only then we will kick into Vikings comeback mode, and no one will see it coming! That's when we will show up! Putting our fans through the biggest emotional roller-coaster ride similar to what we have done to everyone so well all season screaming and chanting SKOL in disbelief!

"We will come back by scoring 14 points in the third quarter and we will hold them to one field goal just to keep them thinking they have a chance!

"We'll score 22 points in the fourth quarter to tie it up and go into overtime. That's when we will run the clock down to 7 seconds to kick the winning field goal to make the biggest comeback in NFL history and clinch the NFC North title!

"Like I said they will never see us coming!"

#SKOL #believers #thuggins

— Michelle

Loved the creative scene setter here because it really encapsulates how absurd of a day it was in an entertaining way. Just like they drew it up, right?

That "soft" defense actually kept them in it by allowing mostly field goals and shutting them down in the second half.

What a gutsy win!!!

— Brad Lewis in Schenectady, New York

Yep, when it came time for a gut check, the defense answered again and again.

With the pickup of [Kalon] Barnes, the Vikes have four speedsters in around 4.3-plus speed.

How about a play with [Dan] Chisena, Barnes, [Jalen] Nailor running deep and have J.J. in backfield on a clear out...with T.J. Hockenson as an option to block or run a route!!!

— Mark Leindecker in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

I admire the creativity and know that speed can make a difference on plays, but I think that it would be tough to ask a cornerback who is brand new to the team to also dabble as a receiver. Even if it's just four verticals, it's likely the opponent would be able to smell that one coming.

There's also an aspect of who would be active for the game. Teams are limited each week to the number of players who can be active. Chisena is on the practice squad, so he'd have to be elevated, and that's usually a roster move based on the overall health/depth at positions.

How is it that the Vikings are always getting robbed by the refs? It's not just here and there. It's every week! This week, it cost us two touchdowns! Nothing ever happens! The next week, the same thing! Been a fan for over 40 years, and these calls by the refs this year have been the worst I've ever seen! They have replay, and they still don't get it called right!

— Becky in Central Minnesota

I'm a firm believer in focusing on what we can control and not ragging on the officials. Overall, NFL officials do a great job. That said, there need to be some substantial, punitive consequences against the officiating crew in this game. Their performance was simply unacceptable and cannot be overlooked. I know the officials' performance is reviewed and graded. I don't know all the details of that review, but if it doesn't result in substantial consequences in this case, then why even bother with the reviews at all.


— Joe from Des Moines, Iowa

Humans make mistakes, from coaches to players to officials and especially yours truly. It seems like there's been quite a bit of effort to try to erase errors and equip officials with some tools for a sport that is played incredibly fast and with sudden changes of possession.

I guess the good thing was that the Vikings were awarded the fumble recovery on the second Chandon Sullivan play, but because the runner's progress was ruled to have been stopped, they did not award the touchdown.

What isn't a human error but more of a gray area is all of the pushing from behind by teammates that have extended runs this season, including in Saturday's game against the contrast of saying the Colts were stopped at initial contact on each of the fumble plays in question. That's well above my pay grade and out of my lane, but I'd imagine the rules and competition committee gives the pushing plays some thought next offseason.

I don't believe there was intent at any point. It just so happened that two really big judgement calls went against the Vikings.

The following comments/questions were added after the Mailbag was initially published.

I was 9 years old when the Vikings started. I have always enjoyed watching them. I remember the courageous Joe Kapp. Then, my favorite player, Fran Tarkenton. I remember many times, toward the end of a game, we would need more than one score in the last 2 minutes. Somehow, Francis would make it happen. Cousins has had to do that, too, many times this year. My 13-year-old grandson asked me after one of the games this year if that was how Tarkenton played. I said, "Yes in some ways, but with Francis, you really had to be there."

I certainly have loved watching them this year, even though every win was heart attack city!

— Julie Strusz

This is so cool that your 13-year-old grandson is well aware of Tarkenton and you are able to connect the purple thread through multiple generations of your family.

Cousins will be the first to say he hasn't played perfectly this season, but I think we can all be impressed with the way he's bounced back from adversity within games. Saturday's display of resilience — he was sacked seven times, the same as the Dallas game — but kept getting up and getting the ball where it needed to go.

The game was awesome — the last 2 quarters of course!

I wonder why when Cook goes right up the middle they don't have a big guy or two behind him to push him across the line!!

I'm sure there was at least one play Saturday where he was SOOOO close and just needed a little help!

— Donna Stone in Shakopee, Minnesota

It's hard to imagine more lows than in the first half and more highs than during the second half for one team in one contest, but that's why this one resonates so much.

As for the run game, I think it's still in progress. There's certainly a possibility that Minnesota could pull someone behind and provide a push in a short-yardage situation, but I think the primary goal is to develop a consistent push off the line to eliminate negative runs. I loved the way Vikings coaches found a way to get the ball to Dalvin in space and found more success on screens in this past game than in recent previous weeks.

The Vikings certainly have a lot of weapons on their disposal on offense between Cook, J.J., K.J., Thielen, T.J., Ham and others. But I feel like they are missing an opportunity in under-utilizing the speed of Kene Nwangwu. He's obviously a great asset on special teams and has more than made his mark there in just under two years in the league. But I, for one, would love to see him get some snaps in the offense as well. He could be well utilized in some Wildcat formations, out of the backfield or in the passing game especially on some screen plays. He has elite speed and shiftiness and could be a legit home-run threat. He may not have the durability of a Cook or even Mattison, but getting him on the field a handful of times each game could open things up for the offense even more. Curious to hear your thoughts!

— Misty Dunn

I'm sure Nwangwu wants to help contribute on the field in any way possible, particularly in games like the one at Detroit where the Lions recorded touchbacks on all seven kickoffs. He's a proven threat as a kick returner, and that unit is still taking shape to optimize the return game.

As for opportunities on offense, those could come down the stretch as the coaching staff pays some attention to workloads with the mindset of being as fresh as possible for the playoffs.

Cook played 77 of Minnesota's 90 snaps on Saturday. That's a lot of mileage, but he still had enough juice for his 64-yard touchdown reception.

I'm personally not a huge Wildcat fan when you are set at quarterback, but there are times when it has been successful. I wouldn't mind seeing Nwangwu in on a couple of plays that might best utilize his speed. When someone who hasn't played a ton suddenly comes into a game, however, a defense could key on it.

We've seen the Vikings do some sweeps and pop passes in previous games. Those usually are the types of ways to use a speedy player.

I have a question about the punt at the end of regulation. It appeared the punt was caught and downed inside the one, barely outside the end zone - why was the ball spotted at the two?

— Mark Berlinger

Appreciate this question right here because I had seen a screenshot of Jalen Nailor standing closer to the goal line. In this screenshot I just made from the game film, you can barely see he is about to touch the football and is on the 2-yard line.


Once he touches it, he can't move the ball backward, but it's probably not the time to get greedy and try to get another yard or two when the alternative could be a touchback and the ball at the 20.

Incredible comeback. Impressed with how everyone adjusted at halftime. The problem I have: the Colts had lost their [previous three] games and have a coach with no pro level experience and it showed on the play-calling decision making late in the game. This should have been no contest. First half was unwatchable, but WOW, the second half amazing. I've been a fan forever. This franchise makes me nuts every year. Please finally win a Super Bowl so I can relax and say they got one!

— Frankie in Connecticut

I think that game is a reminder of the "Any given Sunday" mantra that the NFL prides itself on.

The same Colts team that won Jeff Saturday's first game (at the Raiders in Week 10) had Philadelphia on the ropes in Indianapolis the following week, but the Eagles executed their comeback for a 17-16 victory.

While Saturday is inexperienced in terms of coaching at the pro level, but he started 202 of the 211 regular-season games and 18 of 20 postseason contests he played. He also has a staff of assistants with decades of coaching experience.

All that said, no team expects to trail by 33 at home, and the Vikings have talked since about focusing more on the factors that led to that deficit than celebrating the historic comeback.

I haven't read anything regarding this: The Vikings, definitely a culture change through the entire organization. There's a love affair between the coaches and players, they're winning yet have great room for improvement. They're having fun, and their facilities are second to none. They have to be on the short list of free agents who want to win and compete for a ring.

— Wade Johnson in Central Wisconsin (surrounded by Packer backers! Send help!)

Always admire when fans carry the banner in Wisconsin, although I must say I'm friends with the couple of Packers fans in my neighborhood.

That's a great point that Wade makes. It takes me back to the early days of O'Connell's tenure and he talked about a culture "you can feel" and how connected he wanted the team to be.

We relayed those comments, but they truly manifest during games when adversity strikes, and everyone can see how a well-connected team can respond.

There could be some residual effects of building on that culture, combined with the offerings of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center and U.S. Bank Stadium.

With the possibility of (Irv Smith, Jr.) coming back for the playoffs, how do you think the offense will run with both him and (T.J. Hockenson). Will that open up Thielen and K.J. more or even (Cook) out the backfield?

Also, is no one going to talk about Ezra being downfield with Cook on that screen pass? What great athleticism, am I right?

— Nick in Pennsylvania

View photos of Viktor the Viking alongside other mascots in a halftime matchup against the Cottage Grove Junior Wolfpack during the Week 15 game vs. the Colts.

Last week O'Connell sounded optimistic about Smith's return before the season ends. That window obviously increases into the playoffs. If that happens, I think it gives the Vikings a few more ways to try to attack certain defenses. I'm not sure if it's fair to expect Irv to slide right in and be ready to play a bevy of reps, but the coaches seem like they'd be able to ramp him up strategically.

Having two tight ends that offer the skill sets that Irv and T.J. can provide could help the Vikings play the games within the games (personnel usage to force a defense to adjust their strategy or disguise run and pass plays).

Minnesota's approach will probably vary depending on what coaches believe to be the strengths or weaknesses of a particular foe. I think Hockenson has been incredible the way he's stepped in and contributed so quickly, and I also would like to give a hat tip to Johnny Mundt, who has helped teammates learn this offense from his time with the Rams and has posted career highs in receptions and yards (and scored his first touchdown in his 54th career game).

Thank you, also, for noticing Ezra's effort. Once he saw Dalvin running free, he put down his head and zipped to the end zone. Cook spoke about the play Tuesday:

"Did y'all see Ezra running? It was crazy, right? Funny thing this morning, we're lifting weights, and I told him, 'Yeah I watched it, he was running fast.' He was like, 'Let me tell you something. I wasn't even running fast, bro.' I was like, 'Watch out, man. I don't know, man.'

"I think Ezra kind of helped me stay up at the end to get me in the end zone," Cook added. "But it was fun, man, seeing the effort and seeing how those guys are aware of me breaking the long run and just getting down there and helping me out. I appreciate those guys always. Just trying to make a play to help us win a game."

Side note: NFL Network replayed the game Tuesday afternoon and several folks got pretty excited to see that screen and watch Ezra do his thing.

So after a game we were down 33-0, does one assume the Colts pulled a Minnesota move up 10 points and start to let up and not play aggressive? I mean makes sense. We haven't had a dominant defensive game all year. They are the reason most games are close. Lucky breaks don't make you good. So give credit to the defense for making stops, but just how hard was Indy trying? Did they really need to go up anymore, or just play easy and coast? Probably 3 critical possessions, tops, our defense played great. I liked seeing 6-7 guys on the line and jumping back, mix up the looks. Let's keep that going instead of showing our play pre-snap.

I still say the defense is going to hold us back, it's our Achilles heel, O-line is 2nd. If our defense can stay the course two out of next three, I'll give Donatell a shot, but if two of the next three are 300-plus passing games and 20-plus points, I still say changes need to be made. I'd like to see a fire in the defense like the 49ers, Miami, Denver, Buffalo, etc. all have. I see it on offense, I just don't know if Donatell is that guy to bring that intensity, and we need it.

— Mitch in Casper, Wyoming

What is going on with the defense?

— Patsy in Erhard, Minnesota

Including Mitch's thoughts, but I see several things a different way and probably answer Patsy's question along the way.

Consider the Colts started their opening drive at their 48 and only got three points. They started at the Minnesota 31 on two consecutive possessions after failed fourth-down decisions and totaled six points. It would be really hard to not give up at least six total points when you let an opponent start two possessions in field goal range.

Throw in a blocked punt and an interception returned for touchdowns, and that's 20 of the 33 points off the two turnovers on downs, the special teams miscue and the pick-six.

To those who only looked at the final score, 33 at halftime or 36 at the end of the game raised eyebrows, but to me, that's 13/16 on the defense.

My experience in doing this for a decade plus is that teams are pretty determined in games that decide if they'll have a losing record (Indianapolis is guaranteed that now).

I personally think the Colts offense didn't make some good decisions to protect the lead.

Not tooting my own horn, but I did tell coworkers in real time that I thought the Colts were messing up at the end of the third quarter (Indy still led 36-14).

On second-and-7 with 25 seconds remaining, they went with a pass that was incomplete, stopping the clock with 20 seconds remaining. Third-and-7 led to another pass attempt that was incomplete and stopped the clock with 15 seconds. After a punt, Minnesota got the ball back with seven seconds in the third quarter. The play was a sack to end the quarter, but the Vikings recovered after the break, quickly driving for their third touchdown to make it 36-21 with 12:53 remaining. That's the point where multiple players said they really thought the game was within reach.

If they had it to do over (and perhaps they would have with Jonathan Taylor available), let's say they run the ball for a modest gain of 2. The clock ticks down to end the third quarter. Indy would then open the fourth quarter facing a third-and-5. Although it would be unlikely to move the chains, they were up by 22, so running again, even on third-and-5 would use nearly 40 seconds before the punt. Let's say that gives the ball back to Minnesota at about its 26 with 14:00 remaining.

That's a huge difference from snapping the ball at the Colts 16 with 14:01 left three plays before Cousins hit Jefferson for Minnesota's third touchdown.

The teams Mitch mentioned as having better defenses have all been running the same scheme for multiple seasons and started well ahead of Minnesota when the season began.

There was plenty of fire after halftime when one Colts possession out of 10 (the overtime one) gained more than 30 yards. Four of those possessions didn't yield a single first down, four generated one, and two resulted in two.

Please elaborate on what exactly happens with a play like [Sullivan's scoop and score]. Do the Vikings request the league to examine it? Are apologies made to the team? Are there repercussions for the officiating crew?

— Randy in Las Vegas, Nevada

I am still confused on that second fumble. Who is called down by contact? The runner who fumbled the ball or Sullivan when he recovered it? If it was the runner who fumbled the ball, why did we get the ball? Sullivan's knee was clearly not touching the ground when he picked the ball up, so there's no way he was down by contact. Two touchdowns that were taken away from us.

— Larry Cox

I have never written in, so I hope I get a reply. As a fan of the Vikings for over 50 years, Saturday has to rank as the craziest. My question is who's in charge of the refs? The home team fans always complain. I understand that. I go the same, lol. But it's so obvious when watching other games that you don't care about. I am wondering who's held accountable for the bad calls?

Thank you very much. SKOL.

— Troy Nevin in Las Vegas, Nevada

Although the outcome was a stupendous effort in overcoming both the Colts and the officials, I think the NFL should shed all the officials involved it this game. The Vikings lost at least three touchdowns because of obviously bad calls by the referees, and two of them were overturned after replay when there was absolutely no evidence that clearly showed the call on the field was wrong. Normally in that situation, the call on the field is confirmed. Not with these guys. A long pass reception that showed some movement of the ball when the receiver hit the ground but showed no reason to think the catch was not valid, but it was overturned. Then a clear fumble was overturned because supposedly the official blew the play dead calling the ball carrier down by contact, when he was not down at all, ever. Then saying they cannot overturn the call and grant the touchdown because once the call is made, they cannot change it. However, they had no problem changing the call on the field when the long pass call was overturned. The officiating in this game was a joke and should not be allowed to stand without some degree of accountability on the part of the referees. The final score of this game, all things left as they were should have been Vikings 60 to 36.

— Thomas Frank in Mason City, Iowa

The Vikings can submit any play they disagree with to the league in the week following a game, and there can be an admitting of a mistake, but the horse is already out of the barn at that point.

Sometimes the conversations can lead to better clarity for how to coach Vikings players through certain situations in the future.

I think Randy is probably referencing the second one where it was a fumble forced by Za'Darius Smith as Deon Jackson was still moving forward and then clearly recovered by Sullivan. There's not much learning for the Vikings from that one.

To try to provide a little more clarity for Larry's question, Jackson was the player ruled down by contact, but because there was clear video evidence that the ball was out while Jackson was still moving forward and upright, as well as a crystal-clear recovery by Sullivan, officials could overturn part of the play and award the Vikings the ball. They could not allow the touchdown to count because they had blown the whistle.

As to the question from Troy, the NFL assesses all officials, but like performance reviews of people in other industries, the evaluations are not made public information.

Officials are rewarded for high performance grades by getting assigned to work postseason games in which they can earn more money.

I think every official wants to do his or her best, and I understand that humans make mistakes, especially in a sport that moves so fast.

The thing everyone can hope for in officiating is accurate application of rules that are black and white, as well as consistency through any gray areas. Unfortunately, there's a lack of clarity sometimes on what constitutes a catch like the one by K.J. that Thomas is referring to. While looking at replays in the stadium, I thought to myself that I've seen shakier receptions called catches and more convincing grabs erased. Different officiating crews prioritize certain calls, which might require adjustments by teams.

This year's team had unbelievable reliance and determination! My 50 years of following may have turned my hair gray, and it ain't gonna go back to black, but this team makes me smile. And sometimes, that is enough.


— Tim M. in Peoria, Illinois

We'll close here with appreciation to Tim for repping in Illinois on behalf of all the Vikings fans out there through thick and thin.