'You like that?!' Cousins, Vikings rally from down 10 to beat Commanders 20-17

Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings catches a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter of the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on November 06, 2022 in Landover, Maryland.  ((Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings had to rally from a fourth-quarter double-digit deficit to do it, but they’re 7-1 after a 20-17 win over Washington Commanders on Sunday at FedEx Field.

Kirk Cousins was 22-of-40 passing for 265 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first game against his former team. His newest tight end, T.J. Hockenson,. led the Vikings with nine catches for 70 yards. Justin Jefferson had seven catches for 115 yards, and his first touchdown since Week 1. Dalvin Cook had 17 carries for 47 yards, and a 12-yard game-tying touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.

That's after the Commanders scored 17 straight points to have a two-score lead with 14:14 to play. The Vikings never flinched.

"We talked a lot last night about being at your best when it’s required. How do you do that? You’ve got to be able, first and foremost, to overcome adversity. Some of which we self-inflicted, caused on our own," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said after the win. "Didn’t always play the best complimentary football today, but what we saw is a team continue to find ways to win football games down 10 again in the fourth quarter."

It was late-game strategy that put a cap on the Vikings' comeback. After a Greg Joseph field goal to get the lead back with 1:52 to play, the Vikings instead got a first down on a Commanders’ personal foul penalty. The Vikings then drained the clock, with Washington having just one timeout left, and Joseph converted from 28 yards out with 12 seconds left for the game-winner.

Rather than try to score a touchdown, O'Connell wanted to get the go-ahead points and give the Commanders the ball back with as little time as possible.

"We were in a no-score situation. If we were going to take the points off the board and put our offense back out there, situationally you can kind of do the math on it," O'Connell said. "Love the way we handled it situationally, it’s not always the prettiest in those moments but we did what we had to do to win."

The Vikings opened the game with a nine-play scoring drive that ended with Cousins hitting Jefferson for a 9-yard touchdown. But the offense stalled from there until the fourth quarter, with six drives ending in a punt and another with a Cousins’ interception, trying to hit Jefferson on a deep pass before the end of the first half. Those drives amounted to 32 plays for a combined 110 yards.

Washington took a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter as Taylor Heinicke hit Curtis Samuel for a 49-yard touchdown. On the play, the back judge ran into safety Cam Bynum, who appeared to be there for a Vikings’ interception.

"A couple times a year in this league, stuff like that happens. To go from an interception to a touchdown was unfortunate. It happens a couple times a year, I’m just proud of our team for overcoming it," O'Connell said.

"I’ve played football for almost 30 years and I’ve never seen that," said safety Harrison Smith, who had a fourth quarter interception as part of the comeback.

The Commanders took a 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on Heinicke’s second touchdown of the day. He hit Dax Milne from six yards out, after Za’Darius Smith had a third down sack negated by a facemask penalty.

That's where it started to turn for the Vikings, as Cousins engineered a fourth quarter comeback against his old team. He hit Cook for a 12-yard touchdown on a wheel route to tie the game, 17-17, with 7:46 to play. That set up Cousins using a 15-play drive to get the Vikings a game-winning field goal.

Cousins left FedEx Field to fans celebrating and chanting, "You like that?!" He was seen shirtless on the plane home, with several of his teammates' chains around his neck.

Defensively, Danielle Hunter had two sacks and Harrison Smith's 33rd career interception, and third straight game with a turnover, that was key in the second half comeback. Trailing 17-7 in the fourth quarter, the Vikings scored 13 straight points to leave with the victory. All six of their last wins have been one-possession games in the fourth quarter.

After the win, O'Connell and teammates praised Hockenson. He's been with Minnesota six days, and caught all nine of his targets against the Commanders. The Vikings traded for the standout tight end on Tuesday, after Irv Smith Jr. went down with an ankle injury and will miss at least four games.

"I’m amazed at how prepared he was to play. It’s a testament to his work ethic, his ability to retain information. You could feel his presence on the field, big-time addition," O'Connell said.

The win completes a whirlwind week for O’Connell, whose wife delivered the couple’s fourth child on Friday.

The Vikings have won six straight, and have a 4.5-game lead in the NFC North after the Green Bay Packers lost to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

"It’s the first time we’ve been 7-1 in a long time. Happy about this team, happy about the way we played, of course we’ve got to fix things. I’m glad we have the fight in this team," Jefferson said.