Vikings pull off biggest comeback in NFL history with victory over Colts

Scooby Axson

Greg Joseph kicked a 40-yard field goal with two seconds left in overtime and the Minnesota Vikings engineered the biggest comeback in NFL history to beat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36 on Saturday.

The Vikings (11-3) also clinched the NFC North after coming back from a 33-0 halftime deficit.

The previous largest comeback belongs to the Buffalo Bills, who overcame a 32-point deficit against the Houston Oilers in the AFC Wild Card round in January 1993.

The Vikings scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, courtesy of three Kirk Cousins touchdowns, including one each to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.  

“We’re going to grind it out until they tell us there’s no more ball left to play,” coach Kevin O’Connell said.

Greg Joseph celebrates with Vikings teammates after his 40-yard field goal in overtime clinched the NFC North and the NFL's largest comeback.

After the Colts were stopped on a fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 36, Cousins connected with Dalvin Cook on a 64-yard screen pass and T.J. Hockenson on a two-point conversion to tie the score at 36 with 2:15 left in regulation. 

Both teams punted on their opening possession of overtime, then Cousins completed passes to K.J. Osborn, Thielen and Jefferson on the game-winning six-play, 60-yard drive. Cousins finished 34-54 for 460 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and was sacked seven times.

“It’s a special group, a lot of fighters,” Thielen said.

The Vikings had two fumble returns for touchdowns wiped out by officials' whistles.

In the second quarter with the Colts up 23-0, Matt Ryan completed a pass to Michael Pittman, and as he fought for extra yardage, he was stripped by Chandon Sullivan, who returned it for a touchdown.

Officials said that Pittman was down and that his forward progress was stopped even though Pittman tried to break Sullivan's tackle. 

In the fourth quarter, Sullivan was again part of the action as a Colts fumble was returned for a touchdown, but the play was blown dead. Sullivan was then flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Colts (4-9-1) shot out to the big first-half lead thanks to four Chase McLaughlin field goals, a blocked punt returned 24 yards by JoJo Domann for a score, a pick-six by Julian Blackmon for another touchdown and a 1-yard strike from Ryan to Deon Jackson.  

“Nothing fazes us. We showed that in Buffalo,” said cornerback Patrick Peterson, who aided a 33-30 overtime victory over the Bills on Nov. 13 after a 17-point deficit. “We showed that again today.”

Ryan was also part of the biggest blown Super Bowl lead as the Atlanta Falcons coughed up a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots and lost 34-28 in Super Bowl LI.

“When you have chances to put people away, we’ve got to do a better job than we’ve done up until this point,” Ryan said. 

Teams that have led by 30 points at any point of the game had been 1,548-1-1 in the regular season and playoffs since 1930. The Bills comeback was the victory and the tie was a 1960 game between the Bills and Denver Broncos with the Bills leading 38-7 in the third quarter. The game ended 38-38.

Follow Scooby Axson on Twitter @ScoobAxson

Contributing: Associated Press