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Lunchbreak: ESPN's Ranks Walk-Off Endings, Including 6 Vikings Games

The 2021 Vikings know a thing or two about close games, as all but two of their games have been decided by eight or fewer points.

Minnesota also had to sweat through numerous games that came down to the final play, a theme that began all the way back in Week 1.

The rest of the league has been involved in chaotic games, too, as ESPN recently pointed out that an incredible 32 games were decided by a game-winning score on the final play.

ESPN ranked those 32 games based on how thrilling the final play was, and included the six games the Vikings were involved in this season.

Minnesota was actually in the No. 1 spot on the list — but for the wrong reasons — as ESPN ranked the Vikings Week 13 loss to the Lions as the most exciting walk-off win of the season. Detroit drove 75 yards in 14 plays and the final 1:50 of the game for its first win in 364 days.

The Vikings and Lions also appeared in the No. 3 spot, with this one highlighting Minnesota's walk-off win at home in Week 5.

ESPN noted that the Vikings win probability before the final drive was just 8.1 percent, and that Minnesota's win probability before the walk-off play was 46.2 percent.

Greg Joseph, of course, nailed a 54-yard field goal at the buzzer for a 19-17 win.

ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin summed up the madness:

With the Vikings ahead 16-9 at the two-minute warning, backup running back Alexander Mattison — who was filling in for an injured Dalvin Cook — fumbled just outside Minnesota's red zone. The Lions quickly scored and converted their 2-point attempt to take a 17-16 lead.

Once the Vikings got the ball back, Kirk Cousins found Adam Thielen deep twice for 21 and 19 yards, respectfully, and set up Greg Joseph for a 54-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Joseph found redemption after missing a would-be game winner in Arizona three weeks earlier.

The Vikings also made the top 10 for their win the very next week, a thrilling 34-28 overtime victory against the Panthers that landed eighth on ESPN's list.

Cronin took us back to that victory, too.

Minnesota's prevent defense failed on the final drive of regulation, when the Vikings let Sam Darnold march the Panthers 96 yards downfield in 1:27 to tie the score 28-28 and send it to overtime. The Vikings won the coin toss, and K.J. Osborn was heralded as a hero for his third-down catch followed by a 27-yard touchdown on a deep corner route that allowed Minnesota to capture its second walk-off win in as many weeks.

ESPN listed the Vikings win probability before the final drive at 52.5 percent, and that Minnesota's win probability before the walk-off play was 72.8 percent.

Minnesota's overtime loss to Baltimore came in at No. 24 on the list, and the Vikings Week 1 overtime loss to the Bengals was at No. 30. Both of those games ended on short field goals.

So, too, did Minnesota's Week 11 victory over Green Bay, which was ranked 29th overall.

Cronin wrote about the 34-31 win:

Joseph's 29-yard game-winning field goal was set up by Minnesota's offense acing the 2-minute drill. Kirk Cousins placed a perfect tight window throw in Adam Thielen's hands down the visitor's sideline for a 26-yard reception that moved the Vikings deep into Green Bay territory. Dalvin Cook said he wanted to score "so bad" but understood the situation perfectly (i.e., not giving the ball back to Aaron Rodgers with over a minute to play) and purposefully fell down at the Packers' 7-yard line. Cousins knelt down to burn the clock until there were two seconds left for Joseph to seal the game and get carried off the field by his teammates.

ESPN had the Vikings win probability before the final drive at 57.9 percent, and that Minnesota's win probability before the walk-off play was 96.1 percent.

ESPN's full ranking of the record-number of walk-off winners can be found here.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

Goessling takes deep dive into Vikings secondary

The Vikings struggled once again Sunday night against Aaron Rodgers, as the Packers quarterback kept up his hot streak in Border Battles.

Rodgers, who threw for 288 yards and two scores, has now tossed 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past four games against Minnesota.

Ben Goessling, who covers the Vikings for the Star Tribune, took a look at Minnesota's recent secondary woes vs. Rodgers, but also peeked into the future with that group.

The Vikings started Patrick Peterson and Kris Boyd at cornerback Sunday, with Mackensie Alexander manning the slot. Boyd started in place of Cameron Dantzler, who was out with a calf injury.

Goessling noted that not only has that group struggled, but there is uncertainty with some players (and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer) going forward.

He wrote:

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks have a 117.8 passer rating when targeting Alexander (the seventh-highest rating in the league). Bashaud Breeland, who was released last month, gave up a 112.6 rating (10th-highest in the NFL). Peterson (96.3) and Cameron Dantzler (78.8) have been better, but no Vikings corner ranks among PFF's 40 highest-graded players at the position.

Dantzler, Boyd and Harrison Hand are the only corners signed for 2022, with Peterson and Alexander (as well as safety Xavier Woods) headed for free agency. Peterson talked Sunday night about returning to Minnesota for another season, but it's difficult to know whether he'll feel the same way should the Vikings move on from Zimmer.

Woods is tied for the team lead with three interceptions with linebacker Anthony Barr. Breeland, who is no longer on the team, still has the lead among cornerbacks with two picks.

Goessling's full story can be found here.