The Vikings and Dolphins found the end zone for touchdowns a combined five times in the fourth quarter, but the deciding points occurred when a punt was blocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety in Miami's 37-35 win over Minnesota.
Terrence Fede, a 6-foot-4, 282-pound defensive end jumped and reached over 5-10, 205-pound Joe Banyard to swat Jeff Locke's punt after a snap that was off the mark and dealt the Vikings a heartbreaker with 41 seconds left.
Minnesota had scored two touchdowns 11 seconds apart (in game time) to lead 35-28 with 4:35 remaining, but Miami capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Damien Williams with 1:11 left and quickly forced a three-and-out.
The drive negated a seizing of momentum by the Vikings with an 8-yard TD pass to Jarius Wright by Teddy Bridgewater and a two-point conversion run by Matt Asiata that tied the game at 28 with 4:46 left. Minnesota opted for a higher kick than normal on the ensuing kickoff from the 50 because of a Miami penalty, and pinned Jarvis Landry at the 6, where he slipped and fumbled the ball.
Rookie Antone Exum Jr. recovered the ball at the 5, and Asiata plowed into the end zone on the next play for his second score of the game.
It was the second-highest point total of the season for the Vikings (6-9), who return home next week to host the Bears in the 2014 regular season finale.
Asiata finished with 16 carries for 58 yards, and Bridgewater finished 19-of-26 passing for 259 yards with two touchdowns and an unlucky bounce on an interception in the third quarter. He finished with a passer rating of 114.1 in his first pro game in his hometown.
The Vikings scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half on drives of 54 and 23 yards and added a field goal just before halftime with an 86-yard drive.
Minnesota received a punt with 1:06 left in the first half, and appeared content to run out the clock, but Miami used timeouts after two rushes. Banyard converted third-and-5 with a career-long 16-yard run, and the Vikings switched from conservatively protecting the ball and lead to attacking. Bridgewater hit Charles Johnson for 25 and Cordarrelle Patterson for 17 on consecutive plays, then spiked the ball for a second-and-10 at the Miami 24. Bridgewater took a shot at the end zone with a throw down the sideline that was caught by Chase Ford, who was ruled out at the 1-yard line.
The Fox crew and rules expert Mike Pereira thought the call would be overturned to result in a touchdown, but the play stood as initially called. Minnesota unsuccessfully tried to punch it in with a run on first down, then tried a quick slant to Johnson before setting on an 18-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.
Harrison Smith made a great play while blitzing earlier in the second quarter, knocking Ryan Tannehill's pass in the air and securing the ball for his fifth interception of the season to give Minnesota the ball at the Miami 23-yard line. Bridgewater threw a perfect pass for a 21-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings three plays later. It was Jennings' sixth receiving TD of the season.
The Vikings capitalized on great field position (their own 46-yard line) on their opening possession with a 10-play touchdown drive that relied heavily on forceful runs by Asiata, who had seven rushes for 26 yards and a reception for 6 on the drive. Asiata followed a 21-yard gain on a pass from Bridgewater to Wright that converted third-and-7 by punishing defenders at the end of a 10-yard run. Asiata got the ball six straight plays after that run and pounded the ball across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown, his eighth rushing score of the season.
A pair of Miami miscues set up the first drive. Facing third-and-5 from the Minnesota 33, Dolphins linemen didn't react when center Samson Satele snapped the ball, but the Vikings did for an easy sack of Tannehill, who lost 5 yards on the play. The Dolphins attempted a 56-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis that landed shy of the crossbar.