Another Week, Another Thriller as the Vikings Beat the Jets, 27-22
Throughout the first half of Sunday’s Week 13 game against the New York Jets, it seemed like the Vikings were finally going to put an opponent away early for the first time since Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. Ultimately, the Vikings beat the Jets, but it did not come nearly as easily as it should have.
In the first half of this game, it was all Vikings. They jumped out to a 20-3 lead on the strength of two rushing touchdowns. Dalvin Cook powered in a four-yard score while Alexander Mattison scampered a for a 14-yard touchdown before capping it off with a legendary celebration.
Prior to these touchdowns, though, it was the defense that came to play. On New York’s first possession, Harrison Smith recorded his 34th career interception, giving him the most interceptions of any active player. It was also his fifth INT of the season, putting him in a tie with Tariq Woolen for second in the league.
Additionally, it helped that Greg Joseph nailed all four of his first half kicks, including his first 50+ yard field goal since Week 1. Since then, he had been 0-for-5 prior to nailing a 51-yarder in the first quarter. After Greg Zuerlein nailed a 60-yard field goal at the end of the first half, Minnesota waltzed into the locker room with a commanding 20-6 advantage.
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After that, though, the typical third quarter woes popped up once again for Minnesota. The Vikings ran just 12 plays on offense in the third quarter and gained a total of 10 yards. They punted on all three of their drives.
Meanwhile, the Jets slowly chipped away at Minnesota’s lead by kicking field goals on each of their first three second-half possessions. With 12 and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Minnesota’s once three possession lead had been trimmed to a 20-15 score.
Then, the Vikings finally woke up on their first possession of the fourth quarter. The Vikings opened up the drive with four consecutive plays that went for 10+ yards, including a 25-yard connection between Cousins and Adam Thielen to get the Vikings into the red zone. The drive was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson in the corner of the end zone.
However, even with a 27-15 advantage, the Vikings would need to stop the Jets in order to seal this game. They were unable to do so on the following drive as New York quickly answered with a touchdown drive of their own that needed only five plays to get into the end zone. On back-to-back plays at the start of the drive, Bam Knight broke off a 48-yard run, and then Duke Shelley was called for a 24-yard DPI penalty, setting New York up at Minnesota’s 3-yard line.
The Jets ultimately got the ball into the end zone on a fourth-and-inches QB sneak by Mike White, and New York suddenly found themselves back in the game with under seven minutes remaining. On Minnesota’s following drive the Vikings offense went three-and-out after a 3rd-and-13 pass from Cousins to T.J. Hockenson went only 7 yards.
The Jets quickly drove down the red zone once again, but for the fourth time of the day, they failed to score a touchdown after Mike White could not connect with Braxton Berrios in the end zone of 4th-and-Goal.
On their own goal line, the Vikings proceeded to run three straight plays to Dalvin Cook in order to force New York to use their timeouts. In the end, the Vikings gained just one yard and were forced to give the Jets the ball one final time with 1:19 left on the clock with a chance to win the game.
The first two plays of the final drive saw White hit a pair of passes for 24 yards, including an 18-yard connection to rookie WR Garrett Wilson, once again setting New York up in the red zone. Wilson finished the day with 8 catches for 162 yards.
Once in the red zone, though, the Jets again could not move the ball as White threw three consecutive incompletions. Then on fourth down, the Vikings defense finished the day just as it had begun: with an interception by one of their safeties. This time, it was Cam Bynum who came up with the game sealing INT to send the Vikings to their 10th win.
Overall, this was a tough day for the Vikings offense. Kirk Cousins was constantly under duress from a fierce Jets pass rush and completed just 21-of-35 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Justin Jefferson, guarded much of the time by rookie Sauce Gardner, caught seven passes but had just 45 yards to show for it, but he did score the fourth quarter touchdown.
Even still, it has to be applauded that the Vikings put 27 points on the board in this game. The New York Jets have one of the better defenses in the league and have not allowed that many points since Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It would have been nice for this to end in a cleaner fashion, but this is still an impressive victory nonetheless.
Meanwhile, the Jets offense came soaring back to life in the second half. Mike White finished with 369 passing yards, the second most of his young career, and the Jets piled up 120 rushing yards on top of that. However, their lack of efficiency in the red zone (touchdowns on just one of six drives), and a pair of interceptions by their quarterback ultimately led to their demise.
Now at 10-2, the Vikings can seal the NFC North once and for all when they head to Detroit to take on the Lions (5-7). As for the Jets (7-5), they head back on the road in Week 14 for a date with the Buffalo Bills (8-3) who are coming off a second consecutive Thursday win.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.