Most people expected the suddenly surging Minnesota Vikings (6-6) to handle the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11) on Sunday. The Vikings squeaked out a victory in Week 12 despite several turnovers and miscues against the Carolina Panthers, and many thought that the sloppy play would be cleaned up. That didn’t happen though. With all of the youth on the roster, it was three veterans who made an array of mistakes that either directly took points away from the Vikings or directly gave the Jaguars points. Despite a ten-point deficit, Minnesota scratched and clawed its way back to win thanks to those three veterans, quarterback Kirk Cousins, star running back Dalvin Cook, and kicker Dan Bailey. And with the 27-24 overtime victory the Minnesota Vikings postseason hopes are still alive.
Minnesota Vikings Postseason Hopes Still Alive After Close Call Against Jacksonville Jaguars
Kirk Cousins Throws a Pick-Six
One week after winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Cousins, along with the rest of the Vikings, struggled throughout most of the first half against the Jags. But somehow Minnesota still trailed by only three at halftime and got the ball to begin the second half. On the very first play, Cousins dropped back and threw a pass over the middle to Cook. But Cook never turned around to look for the ball, and Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert intercepted the pass and ran it back 43 yards for the touchdown. Minnesota was down 16-6 and for the second straight week gave up points on a turnover to begin the second half.
Dan Bailey’s Struggles Become a Problem as Cousins Stabilizes
Dan Bailey missed his first extra point attempt of the day when the Vikings scored to cut the lead to 9-6 in the first half following an Adam Thielen touchdown. Things appeared to even out when Bailey hit his next extra point after Cousins found fullback C.J. Ham for a 12-yard touchdown pass which cut the Jaguars lead to 16-13. After a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Justin Jefferson, the Vikings took a 19-16 lead. But Bailey once again missed the extra point and he wasn’t even close. The missed PATs were taking momentum away from Minnesota every time they appeared to regain control of the game.
Failure To Put the Game Away
Minnesota was on the verge of taking total command of the game even though most of the game had gone poorly. Following a fumble recovery by the defense at the Jaguars 34-yard line, the Vikings marched down to the Jaguars one-yard line as the third quarter ended. Dalvin Cook appeared to be heating up after being stifled for much of the afternoon. However, a botched exchange from Cousins to Cook resulted in the Jaguars recovering the ball at the two-yard line. While the box score will tally the play as a fumble on Cousins’ stat line, it was Cook who hesitated in the hole, almost reaching to grab the handoff instead of letting the ball get into the “pocket”. TV cameras appeared to show Cousins and Cook discussing the play on the sideline, and the Jaguars had life again.
After the Jaguars tied the game at 24, Minnesota still had 1:08 to try to get their second game-winning drive in as many weeks. But against Jacksonville, as opposed to their game against the Panthers, the Vikings moved in smaller chunks. Cousins couldn’t get comfortable as the Vikings picked up minimal yardage on each play, but eventually they did get into field goal range. Bailey had a 51-yard attempt, and being a veteran, was believed to have been capable of putting his previous misses behind him. However, the kick never had a chance, and it sailed wide left. Jacksonville ended up trying a 62-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, but the kick came up short.
After the Vikings went three-and-out, a Harrison Smith interception at the Jacksonville 46-yard line put the Vikings in position to close out the game. Cousins began the drive with a pass of nine yards to Thielen and then a 10-yard strike to backup tight end Tyler Conklin following an offensive penalty on the Vikings. After that, Minnesota gave Cook seven consecutive carries, including a first-down conversion on a third-and-six play out of I-formation. Cook used his vision agility to cut back and get around the Jaguars defenders.
Following the three earlier Bailey missed kicks, the Vikings tried to seal the victory in overtime with a touchdown even though a field goal could win the game. The Vikings got the ball to the one-yard line, but a false start pushed them back five yards on third down. Minnesota sent out Bailey, and he split the uprights with a 23-yard field goal that helped keep the Minnesota Vikings postseason hopes alive.