Vikings get ugly 27-24 OT win over Jaguars, keep NFC playoff hopes alive

Cameron Dantzler #27 of the Minnesota Vikings intercepts a pass intended for Eric Saubert #85 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images))

Football locker rooms after wins are typically places of celebrations. Smiles, handshakes and congratulatory speeches.

That didn't happen at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday after the Minnesota Vikings needed overtime and a 23-yard field goal from Dan Bailey to get past the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-24. The Jaguars entered the game with just one win on the season, and on a 10-game losing streak.

It was a sloppy, sluggish game from start to finish and one that shouldn’t have required overtime, but the win is what matters. They don’t have to apologize for it, but they also don’t feel great about it.

“I have mixed feelings to be honest with you. I’m talking to the team about it’s important that we’re winning these games, but we’ve got to do these things way better than what we’re doing and they all understand,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “There wasn’t a lot of hooting and hollering going on in the locker room the last two weeks. They know that we have to do better in order to continue to win games.”

Since their Week 8 bye, the Vikings have won five of their past six games. They got back to .500 for the first time all season at 6-6, and are now in the last playoff spot in the NFC with four games to play after the Arizona Cardinals lost to the L.A. Rams.

Sunday’s win wasn’t pretty, but the Vikings have a habit of making life for themselves harder than it needs to be in the biggest moments.

“A win is a win, it doesn’t matter how much we win by. There’s definitely a lot of things that we need to fix and look at. We’ve definitely got to fix those things going into Tampa,” said receiver Justin Jefferson, who finished with nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Jefferson notched his fifth 100-yard game of the season, and became the first rookie since Randy Moss in 1998 to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the season in 12 games or fewer.

The Vikings learned just before kickoff they would be without defensive star Eric Kendricks, who tweaked his calf during warm-ups and couldn’t play. What followed was a slow start, with the Jaguars scoring on their opening drive. Kris Boyd should’ve intercepted Mike Glennon on the play, but the deflected pass hit Laviska Shenault in the chest for an early touchdown.

The Jaguars were up 9-0 and looking to build on that lead when Cameron Dantzler got his first career interception. It brought the Vikings to life, and they turned it into points after Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen for a short touchdown.

Without Kendricks, the Vikings’ defense managed to force four turnovers and create points with a safety.

“Our veteran guys on defensive side of the ball, they always preach we need to make a play before we go out there. I just happened to be in the right position at the right time and made a play to get our offense going,” said Dantzler, who added four tackles, a forced fumble and recovery to his day.

Trailing 9-6 at the half, the Vikings dug that hole deeper one play into the third quarter. Kirk Cousins had a screen pass intended for Dalvin Cook intercepted by Joe Schobert, and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings trailed 16-6, by double digits in the third quarter at home to a lesser opponent, for the second straight week.

With their season potentially on the line, Cousins answered with a pair of touchdown drives. He hit C.J. Ham for a 12-yard score to get the Vikings within 16-13, then found Jefferson for a 20-yard score and a 19-16 lead after Bailey missed the extra point. Cousins finished the day 28-of-43 for 305 yards, three touchdowns and two costly turnovers. He was also sacked four times by one of the worst defensive fronts in the NFL.

Every time it looked like the Vikings might pull away, there was a mistake to keep Jacksonville in the game. The fourth quarter started with Cook and Cousins fumbling an exchange at the 1-yard line, killing what could’ve been a game-sealing touchdown drive.

“One of those plays that you’re just very agitated, very frustrated when you head to the sideline because you feel like you’re gifting the other team an opportunity and taking away six points from your team,” Cousins said.

Cook had another busy day with 38 total touches for 179 total yards. Three plays later, the Vikings got a safety as Ifeadi Odenigbo and Jordan Brailford combined for a sack on Glennon in the end zone. They led 21-16 with 14:11 to play.

Jacksonville wasn’t done. James Robinson scored from 1-yard out, and Glennon hit Collin Johnson for a two-point conversion to tie the game 24-24 with 1:08 to play.

The Vikings had a chance to win in regulation, but Bailey was wide left from 51 yards out with 18 seconds left. The Jaguars tried to get a walk-off win with a 62-yard field goal try from Chase McLaughlin, who started the season on the Vikings’ practice squad, but the kick was well short.

Minnesota went backwards on its first possession of overtime before punting it away. Harrison Smith then picked off Glennon, setting up Bailey’s walk-off field goal. Zimmer wanted Cook to run it in, but brought his field goal unit out after Dakota Dozier was flagged for a false start at the 1-yard line.

Zimmer didn’t exactly feel confident in Bailey, with the veteran missing two extra points and the potential game-winning field goal earlier. But Bailey converted the 23-yarder, the Vikings are back to .500 and back in the playoff picture.

It shouldn’t have come to overtime, but a win is a win.

“I think right now they feel fortunate to be where we are. We have to stop doing these things that’s going to cost us games down the road. If we’ll stop doing those things and continue to play with the heart and the fight and the things that we have, we’ve got a chance to play,” Zimmer said. “The last two weeks you come in the locker room and it’s more relieved than excited. That’s probably a good thing, I think they know where they’re at in this world right now.”

The season was all but lost with the Vikings on their bye. They were 1-5, largely hadn’t been competitive and a young defense was struggling. Now they’re 6-6, and with three out of four on the road to end the season, they control their playoff destiny.

“At the bye week when we were 1-5 with 10 games left, I was able to remind myself those 10 games are really going to dictate everything, not the 1-5 start. I feel that same way right now sitting here with four games left, three quarters of the way through the season. Those four games are going to tell the story,” Cousins said.