The Skol Debate: The Defining Moment of The 2022 Vikings Season Was: __________

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) reacts to his catch against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

What was the defining moment of the 2022 Vikings season? That’s the focus of our debate.

Now, as we’ll go on to discuss, we’ll first acknowledge that a certain sensational grab in Buffalo needs to be eliminated. At 13-4, there are a ton of other options for the fan and/or writer to consider, making it fertile soil to plant a hearty debate.

Take a look at where the debaters stand:

  • The Purple Corner: Josh Frey (The Week 4 Lutz Double Doink)
  • The Gold Corner: K. Joudry (The Week 15 Osborn Dropped 40 Yarder)

Keep reading if you’d like to see which play deserves recognition as the defining moment of the year for our friends in purple.

The Defining Moment of The 2022 Vikings Season

KJ: The 2022 Vikings season has been a wild ride. 

We’ve experienced 4 blowout losses, 2 sizable wins, and 11 nail-biting, gut-wrenching, gray-hair-turning victories. In the end, we’re left with a 13-4 victory, good for 3rd place in the NFC and an impending date with the Giants of New York in the playoffs’ opening round

As we await the upcoming tilt, Josh and I felt it best to participate in some reflecting. What was the defining moment of the year? 

Right up front, we’ll acknowledge the purple elephant in the room: Justin Jefferson’s otherworldly one-hander in Buffalo. You know the play. It was 4th and 18 and Kirk Cousins heaved up the ball to his best playmaker. Minnesota’s WR1 didn’t disappoint, tossing up a go-go gadget arm to bring down one of the league’s greatest catches: 

Neither of us are rolling with this play since it’s far too easy. Who could argue against it? Instead, we’re simply arguing about the play that deserves the silver medal. There are plenty to choose from. 

Josh, hit us with your initial thoughts for the season’s defining moment. 

JF: There’s no doubt that this 2022 season has been filled with wild moments that we will remember for years down the road. You could pick out any of those 11 one-possession wins and find something worthy of consideration in this debate. 

For me, the 2021 season of Vikings football was one of the more frustrating few months of football I’ve ever experienced. It was reminiscent of watching the New Orleans Saints teams from 2014-16. There was a great group of offensive players, but outside of that, if something could go wrong, it would go wrong, and it ultimately led to three-straight 7-9 seasons.

In 2021, the Vikings lost eight games by one possession. Five of these losses came down to plays made in the final minute of the game, and three of them were sealed with either a missed kick by Greg Joseph or a made kick by an opponent. 

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) celebrates his game winning field goal against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s interesting that losing games by field goals has become synonymous with Vikings lore because they actually only have the 15th-most losses by three or fewer points of the current NFL franchises with 104 (per Stathead). In fact, they’ve actually won more games than they’ve lost when the point differential is 3 points or fewer (all-time record of 110-104-11).

However, from 2016-2021 (I’ll let you decide why I chose 2016), the Vikings had the ninth-worst winning percentage in such games (8-11-1), and no one lost more of these games from 2020-2021 than the Vikings (7). 

Because of that, when Wil Lutz lined up for a 61-yard field goal for the Saints in Week 4 to potentially send the game to overtime (his second 60+ yarder in the final two minutes of the game), I think everyone’s gut feeling was that it was going through the uprights. Especially after Greg Joseph had just hit a 47-yarder to take the lead, it seemed destined that the Vikings couldn’t get lucky twice with kicks.

Instead, as the ball left Lutz’s foot, it banged off the left upright, hit the crossbar, and somehow, harmlessly bounced onto the turf, ending the game in a 28-25 victory for the Vikings. 

It was the second of their 11 one-possession victories during the 2022 regular season, and they are yet to be heartbroken by a field goal attempt either from their own kicker or their opponent’s. Lutz’s missed kick felt like a turning point for this team where, after so many things going wrong in the previous season, the Vikings finally had luck on their side. 

Because of that, if I can’t have Justin Jefferson’s catch, this is the moment that defined the 2022 regular season for the Vikings. It was the launching pad into a very special year in which they’ve seemed invincible in close games. And now, I toss it back over to you, Kyle. Which moment have you picked as the one that defined the Vikings regular season?

KJ: The double-doink was indeed a surprising moment. I was watching the game with my wife and we both fully expected Lutz to drill the kick. Initially, we even thought he did; there was a heart-sinking moment when it hit the upright. Alas, luck was on our side – as you say – and the Vikings snagged the London victory. 

It was a great game that helped foreshadow how the season would go, but I’m going to zig while you zag. Let me instead propose a different play for the silver medal, one that didn’t even work out particularly well for Minnesota. 

In Week 15, the Colts had built up an incredible lead over the Vikings. I, like many others, was wondering about what kind of disastrous effort we were seeing play out in front of our eyes. Indianapolis was being coached by Jeff Saturday and they were somehow demolishing the Vikings, a team that still had aspirations of the NFC’s #1 spot. Even worse, the game was taking place in our own barn. 

The game was, in a word, embarrassing. I wouldn’t have faulted some of the players for quitting; I thought the game was over and I’m sure some on the roster did, as well. 

Week 16 NFL Picks
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrate the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

However, we know that K.J. Osborn didn’t quit. Mark my words: the WR2 (he has surpassed Adam Thielen) is going to be a team captain in Minnesota before it’s all said and done. He’s smart, competitive, physical, and he cares about his teammates (who went to get the football after Jalen Nailor’s first career TD?). He blocks and moves the chains. He’s also capable of creating huge plays. 

Following the pick-6, Kirk Cousins hit Osborn for a 40-yard bomb. Being able to pick up some points before the half felt like a must for a Vikings team that was stunningly down by 30 points. Osborn appeared to make a sensational play. Instead, a challenge from Indy showed that the play was incomplete, bringing Minnesota back to square one. 

A few plays later, the Vikings punted the ball (yet again). Indianapolis went on to tack-on a field goal for good measure, increasing their lead to 33-0 heading into the half.

Undeterred, Osborn kept competing. The Vikings’ YouTube page uploaded a video of his every catch from the game. In the first half, a first-down catch inspired mock cheering from Minnesota’s fans who were disgusted by what they were seeing. In the second half, though, Osborn proved to be the catalyst for the comeback. His massive catch while down 33-0 helped set up the Vikings on the goal line. Even better, Osborn is the one who got Minnesota on the board. 

He finished the day with 10 catches, 157 yards, and a TD. He was a failed challenge away from having 11 catches and 197 yards. 

What stands out in many of the catches is his physicality and compete. At no point does he decide to put in a half effort. He is constantly fighting to put Minnesota’s offense in a good position. 

For the season, we’ve seen the Vikings pull off some impressive things. Overcoming the Colts was literally the greatest comeback in NFL history. For many fans, it was an outcome that prompted legitimate belief that this team really could do something special in the playoffs. As a result, I’m going to say that Osborn’s explosive catch-that-wasn’t-a-catch was the season’s defining moment. 

What say you, Josh, have you been persuaded?

JF: That Colts game certainly is one that we will look back on as one of the most entertaining games of all-time, and we’ve already hashed out the significance of that comeback in one of these debates.

Osborn played a huge role in that comeback, and as you mentioned, he’s now a leader of this team in many ways. He entered the 2022 season with zero 100-yard receiving games to his name, and now, he has two of them in the past four weeks. His showing against the Colts feels like it could be the launching pad into a larger role with this offense.

That being said, I don’t think I can get on board with the “catch that wasn’t a catch” as the defining moment of the season. I want the play that I consider “defining” to be one that counts. The play was challenged and ultimately reversed, leaving it with very little impact on the course of the game. Furthermore, as you pointed out, Osborn had another massive catch later in the game that was the true spark they needed in the second half. 

In the third quarter, after that “catch that wasn’t a catch” and the score still 33-0, Osborn was sent on a go route. Cousins hit him over the middle of the field, and Osborn used some outstanding breakaway speed to rack up yards after the catch for a 63-yard gain all the way down to the 2-yard-line. A couple plays later, Osborn then caught a touchdown, ultimately beginning Minnesota’s outstanding comeback. 

That 63-yard play, and the drive overall, showed how dangerous Osborn can be on the offense. He can take the top off a defense with his route running, and his acceleration allows him to be a threat after the catch as well. 

So, Kyle, I toss it back to you. Why the 40-yard incompletion rather than the 63-yard completion as your defining moment?

KJ: Your point is well taken. I’m highlighting a play that was, in reality, a negative for Minnesota. An incomplete pass isn’t going to get the job done when a team is down by 30 points. Nevertheless, I’m going to double down. 

I pick it as the defining moment because it speaks to what has made Osborn so successful in that game and, indeed, these final weeks of the regular season. The dude doesn’t quit on the team. Every player says they don’t, but it’s different when we actually see it on the field in an actual play. 

Put simply, there wasn’t too much reason for Vikings skill players to grind it out at that point in the game. The outcome was already decided before the second half even arrived, but Osborn didn’t seem to care too much. 

It’s that mentality that allowed him to go and put together that impressive two-play sequence – the long catch before the TD – that really got the comeback going in the second half. 

NFL teams commonly participate in clichés about always believing and never giving up. Osborn put those things into action on that failed 40-yarder. His willingness to keep competing in that moment seems to encapsulate what Kevin O’Connell is trying to instill in his team: a relentless belief in themselves no matter what outsiders may think (frauds, flukes, DVOA disasters, etc.). 

Maybe I’ll toss in these final words before sending things back for a final thought from you. 

Let’s say you continue to disagree with the failed 40-yard catch. Would you put the successful 63-yard catch above the Wil Lutz doink? After all, that’s a moment that mostly centers on another team’s player. Should we give the Saints’ kicker such a prized position in this magical Minnesota season? 

JF: These are fair points. Osborn had every reason in the world to pack it in against the Colts after that first half, especially after the one explosive play of the half was overturned. Instead, he used it as fuel to put together a terrific second half. 

As for the Lutz doink, perhaps it is unfair to give the defining moment to a play performed by an opponent. However, I’ll double down as well. If there’s one word that many people would use to describe how the Vikings got to their 13-4 regular season record, especially at a national level, it’d be luck. Whether we like it or not, if the Vikings do not win the Super Bowl this year, that’s how this team will be remembered by many. 

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and place kicker Greg Joseph. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

I don’t believe everything the Vikings have done this year can be described as luck, but it’s undeniable that Minnesota has somehow gone from one of the most snake-bitten franchises in past years to one that has had so many things bounce their way this year. It’s a hilarious set of circumstances for this franchise.

And, this so-called “luck” that has helped the Vikings get to 13-4 really begins with that double-doink by Lutz. You could make the argument that it began popping up against the Lions, but overall, I give Kevin O’Connell and his players credit for a great scheme and execution to win that game in Week 3. The first time that the Vikings truly got lucky was when Lutz missed that kick. 

Overall, it’s a tricky task to sum up a team’s season with one moment or play, especially when we’re eliminating the clear No. 1 from contention. That being said, I do think that these 2022 Vikings have gotten to 13-4 because of their talent on the field and within their coaching staff alongside a splash of resilience through adversity and some luck. 

Hopefully, though, we’ll be able to look back on this debate in a month and say that none of the things mentioned today are the true defining moments of the season, and instead, it happens during this playoff run.