MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings were 74 seconds away from a home loss to the Detroit Lions, a two-game losing streak and a 1-2 record heading to London.
Then, after going 4-of-6 on fourth downs during the game, Lions’ coach Dan Campbell, facing a 4th-and-3 with 1:14 to play, sent his kicker out for a 54-yard field goal try with a 24-21 lead on the Vikings. If the Lions go for it and convert, they run the clock out for a victory. Instead, Austin Seibert missed wide right, and the Vikings had a chance. With 45 seconds left in regulation, Kirk Cousins hit KJ Osborn for a game-winning, 28-yard touchdown as the Vikings sent 65,000 screaming fans home happy with a 28-24 come-from-behind victory.
The Vikings came back from a pair of double-digit deficits, 14-0 and 24-14, to win the game, start 2-0 in the NFC North and head across the pond 2-1. It's only three weeks in, but Sunday's result already felt like a critical turning point.
"We were just thinking special teams is not coming out here. That was the message in the huddle, let’s go win it. Don’t let special teams come out here, let’s go win the game," Osborn said. "Kirk threw a great ball as always, and the rest is history. I just want to do my job and when my number is called, make the play. It felt amazing man."
Six days ago, the Vikings lost at the Philadelphia Eagles 24-7 on Monday Night Football, and Kevin O’Connell put much of the blame on himself. Getting the ball back with 1:10 to play and no timeouts Sunday, he was not interested in sending the game to overtime with a field goal.
"A week ago, I didn’t do a good enough job of staying true to who we want to be from an offensive philosophy. Late there, didn’t have any timeouts left. I knew that I didn’t want to be in a situation where we dinked and dunked. I wanted to score a touchdown," O’Connell said. "I wanted to win this football game in front of our fans in regulation."
It didn’t come easy. The Vikings found themselves down 14-0 in the second quarter after the Lions got touchdowns from Jamaal Williams and T.J. Hockenson. Williams scored from two yards out after the Lions went for it on 4th-and-6, and Jared Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown for 30 yards. Goff hit a wide open Hockenson from five yards out for a score with 13:38 left in the first half.
The Vikings answered with a pair of touchdowns to tie the game going into the half. Cousins hit an open Adam Thielen in the back of the end zone for a short touchdown. Dalvin Cook also scored from four yards out with 1:12 to play in the half.
The Lions took a 17-14 lead on a 40-yard field goal with 8:36 to play in the third quarter, then built their lead to 10 points on Williams’ second touchdown of the day, from 13 yards out. The Vikings’ new-look 3-4 defense didn’t generate any pressure on Goff, and he took advantage of Harrison Smith not being in the secondary due to a concussion. The Vikings allowed 416 yards, 277 through the air, but came up with stops in key situations. Josh Metellus, playing safety with Smith out, intercepted Goff on a desperation heave with nine seconds to play to seal the win.
"We’re trying to get wins, we’re not trying to leave nothing up for grabs. Anything we could do to get off the field, we had to do in that moment," Metellus said. "I’m a team guy, it was just another opportunity to help the team. Coach called my name and I was ready to show up."
The Vikings’ second comeback in the game started with Alexander Mattison’s 6-yard touchdown run with 7:50 to play. Mattison was in after Cook suffered a shoulder injury on a play where he fumbled, and the Lions recovered. Cook had 16 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game. He didn’t return, but O’Connell said after the game Cook told him he’ll be ready to play against the Saints in London.
It set up the late fourth quarter drama, with Seibert’s missed field goal allowing Cousins to get back on the field to lead a game-winning drive. Cousins finished the day 24-of-41 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Earlier in the game, he had Osborn wide open for what would’ve been a score, but the ball was overthrown. His 28-yard touchdown to Osborn with the game on the line was right on the money. Osborn finished the day with five catches, and led the Vikings with 73 yards.
"I think it’s just encouraging to find those inches at the end and find a way. We want to be a team that’s been there before and done that, and has done it consistently. Today is a step in that direction for sure," Cousins said. "Kevin said in there (the locker room) that feeling is addicting. When you win like that, you want to chase it."
It wasn’t the prettiest at times, but O’Connell used the word "resilient" to describe his second win as a head coach.
"You could just feel the emotion of the whole stadium understanding how important it was for us to persevere and rally. I think when you can respond in those moments, this is when you go win the football game or you don’t. You come back in with a victory and know that we earned every bit of it against a good football team, I think there can be some real growth moving forward and relief if and when that inevitable adversity hits again," O’Connell said.