MINNEAPOLIS -- Good thing the NFL doesn't award style points for wins.
A second-half comeback and 23-yard field goal in overtime propelled the Minnesota Vikings to a 27-24 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the first time Minnesota (6-6) has been at .500 this season.
There was an ugliness to this game that has become the norm for the Vikings in recent weeks; a level of play a team can only get away with against a one-win team.
Minnesota had several instances of miscommunication between Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook on a pick-six to start the second half and a fumble at the goal line later in the fourth quarter. In yet another week, the Vikings got away with an absurd amount of special-teams blunders, including two missed extra points and a 51-yard field goal and Boyd's third straight game with an illegal block-in-the-back penalty on a punt return. And they won this game without star middle linebacker Eric Kendricks who injured his calf during warm-ups and was ruled out.
Minnesota was lucky to pull out a win and keep its playoff hopes alive. But with two games against .500 or better teams on the horizon, the Vikings need to buck this trend.
Cook or nothing: Cook, who scoffed last week at the notion of being banged up, looked like he lacked the burst he's displayed throughout the majority of the season. Part of that had to do with Jacksonville loading the box against him, but the offense came out flat from the beginning and didn’t get the usual boost it does from the run until late. Because of the issues with the kicking game, Minnesota called on Cook to run eight straight times in overtime and would have made it nine had they not false-started on the 1-yard line. Those runs set up Bailey’s game-winning field goal. And without Alexander Mattison, who underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis, the Vikings chose to push Cook as far as he could go with 32 carries for 120 yards and six catches for 59 yards. The Vikings have long said that the offense goes at the rate which Cook does, and it’s clear they have no issue riding Cook to a career-high in touches no matter the cost.
Jefferson joins elite company: Justin Jefferson became the fifth rookie in the Super Bowl era to record 1,000 yards receiving in his first 12 games. Jefferson only had two targets, two catches and 12 receiving yards at halftime. A big second-half performance from Jefferson, who finished with nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, helped the offense find some life.
Biggest holes in the game plan: The Vikings' lack of urgency at multiple points is mystifying. Take for example Minnesota’s chance to take a lead going into halftime. With 1:45 to play in the second quarter, the Vikings called a run for Cook on the first play of their final drive (it went 2 yards), got a penalty coming out of a timeout while Cousins got sacked for a 7-yard loss. Cousins appeared to lock on to Adam Thielen early on, and the Vikings' offense was predictable with so many of the same run plays called on early downs. If there’s anything the Vikings have learned in recent weeks, the need for Jefferson to get involved early and often has to be a top priority. They finally figured that out in the second half, but it longer than necessary to come to that conclusion.
What's next: How about coming away with a convincing victory against a team with winning record? That's what's on the table in Week 14 when the Vikings face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) on the road next Sunday. The Bucs are coming off a bye at a time when their offense is seemingly coming apart at the seams. A win against Tom Brady & Co. doesn't feel that far-fetched, but the Vikings cannot play the way they did against Jacksonville. Minnesota has one victory against a team with a winning record, which came in Week 8 on the road at Green Bay.