MINNEAPOLIS — No, no, no, no …. yes!
The Vikings earned their eighth win of the season Sunday with a 27-23 victory over the Broncos. But it didn't come easy, not with the Vikings having to rally from a double-digit halftime deficit of 20 and fourth-quarter margin of 16 at home.
But somehow, someway … the Vikings pulled it out. It was the grittiest win of the season, dripping with persistence and determination.
"We've got to play better [in the first half]," said Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. "But our heart is there. Our fight is there. We have the guys to do it, [was] just about doing it and doing it the right way."
Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "Showed a lot of heart, showed a lot of guys, showed a lot of courage."
The first half was a calamity for the Vikings, who were out-gained 217-47 in total yardage. To make matters worse, Minnesota also had four penalties for 44 yards, as the Vikings struggled in nearly every area.
That included on defense, where the unit gave up three passing plays of 30-plus yards. A defense that had allowed just 55 points in four home games [13.8 points per game] allowed 20 points in the first half alone.
And while there was certainly frustration in the Vikings locker room at halftime, there wasn't any panic.
"I talked to them," Zimmer said with a laugh. "I just basically told them we've got to — you know, everybody's worrying about this or worrying about that. You've got to focus on your job.
"We've got to get lined up. We've got to go play fast, play hard, play together as a team … do the things we're capable of doing," Zimmer added. "I don't know if a speech really helps. It helped — us going down the field on a scoring drive [to open] the second half to make it a two-score game. That helped."
Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah described the mood in the locker room at the break.
"Our opportunity in the second half was to win. That's all we thought about," Abdullah said. "We broke halftime and said, 'We're going to win this game.' Every time we go out there, we just want to win.
"You can't play any worse than that [in the first half]. You can't plan any worse in a first quarter. Shoot, it was like the Bad News Bears. Special teams, balls on the ground, holding – things that are just not in our character," Abdullah added. "It was a gut-check thing. We really wanted to put our identity … out there in the second half, and I can't be any more proud of this team. We're a lot better than what we showed today, but that second-half resiliency, I'll take that every time."
Down 20-0 at the half, the Vikings marched 75 yards in nine plays on a drive capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Irv Smith, Jr. It was the rookie's first-career score.
Denver added a field goal before Dalvin Cook scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Then came a 54-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Diggs that brought the Vikings within a field goal with just over 10 minutes left.
Back in the offseason, Mike Zimmer preached the importance of finding ways to close out games in the final 10 minutes.
Minnesota couldn't do it in Kansas City, but did so in Dallas. And the Vikings were successful yet again on Sunday, as Kyle Rudolph scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 32-yard catch for a 27-23 lead.
"You don't want to put yourself in a 20-point hole, but you have to love the resiliency of this team," Rudolph said. "To fight for four quarters, to come out with what we knew it was going to take, to play perfect football for 30 minutes, and we did that.
"I cannot credit this team's effort, fight, and toughness enough," Rudolph added. "Throughout a 16-game season you are going to have ugly games, but it's a win, and that's all that matters."
The Vikings had to survive a chaotic final few minutes, as Denver drove down to the Vikings 4-yard line and had three passes go incomplete.
But by then, there was plenty of belief the Vikings would find a way to get the job done.
How rare — and impressive — was the come-from behind win?
According to Elias Sports, the Vikings are the first team in the last 40 seasons to score a touchdown on every second-half possession and win after trailing by 20 points at the half.
Sunday's win was perhaps the most emotional of the season, one full of ups and downs and twists and turns.
But Minnesota is now 8-3 headed into the bye week. It's a chance to rest before a five-game push for the postseason and playoff seeding.
The games won't be easy, but now the Vikings know they have what it takes within themselves to find a way to win in any situation.
"It doesn't just happen like that. You have to have character," Cousins said of the comeback. "As one person texted me, 'That doesn't happen to basic people.'
"You got to have something to you to be able to bring that back," Cousins added. "I'm proud of my teammates and our coaches for the way they found a plan to get it done."
Added Diggs: "I like when things are bad … because you see what kind of guys you've got. They showed today that they are going to fight each and every play when bad things are happening or we are down. When it rains it storms, and it definitely stormed today, but we brought our umbrella."