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Limbeck: Vikings manage to scratch out OT victory

The Vikings needed overtime to defeat the one-win Jaguars, but have now won five of their past six games to improve to 6-6.

Vikings Ham.JPG
Vikings fullback C.J. Ham (30) scores a touchdown in the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at U.S. Bank Stadium after taking a screen pass from Kirk Cousins. The Vikings won 27-24 in overtime. (Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports)
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Easy? Nothing is ever easy for the 2020 Minnesota Vikings.

Head pounding, head scratching and head numbing, yep. Those are almost givens on a weekly basis, but nothing about this season has been a breeze.

You would think playing at home as a 10-point favorite against a 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars team would have the Vikings salivating. But these Vikings aren't built to be dominant and any type of salivating could be confused as drooling.

The Vikings defense was hit with disheartening news Sunday when elite linebacker Eric Kendricks suffered a calf injury in pre-game warmups and missed the game. The Vikings defense proceeded to sleepwalk through the first quarter as Jacksonville jumped out to a 9-0 lead.

Jacksonville got a touchdown on a tipped pass on the game's first drive. That was just the start of a bizarre game that neither team looked like they wanted to win.

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The Vikings finally won 27-24 in overtime as they merely survived what could have been a laugher, or a disheartening loss. The Vikings have now won five of six games to reach .500 for the first time this season. At 6-6 they are sitting right on the cusp of the final wild-card spot in the NFC with four games to go.

"It’s more relieved than excited, and that’s probably a good thing, because I think they know where they’re at in this world right now," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

Kicker Dan Bailey had missed two extra points earlier in the game as well as a 51-yard field goal late in regulation that would have won the game. But given a fourth chance, he got a bit of atonement with a game-winning 23-yard field goal in the OT.

The Vikings offense surged at times, but also provided a plethora of costly errors. Kirk Cousins passed for just 85 yards in the first half while Dalvin Cook was held to 21 yards rushing. The pair teamed for a couple of big gaffes in the second half.

Cousins and Cook were in miscommunication on the first play of the third quarter. Cook didn't look up for a pass and it was intercepted for a pick-6 and the Jaguars led 16-6. For those scoring at home, the Vikings offense has allowed three defensive touchdowns the past two games, all early in the third quarter.

Cousins proceeded to throw two TD passes later in the third quarter to put the Vikings up 19-16 and seemingly in control. The Vikings could have all but iced the game on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Cousins and Cook messed up an exchange at the Jacksonville 1.

The Vikings defense did collect a safety on a rare sack and Bailey later added a field goal for a 24-16 lead. But Jacksonville, behind backup quarterback Mike Glennon, had a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive and 2-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The Vikings defense has been average at best this season -- especially with a lead in the fourth quarter -- and struggled in key spots against the Jaguars. But the unit did come up with a safety and season-high four turnovers.

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Rookie Cameron Dantzler had his first career interception in the first half, leading to Minnesota's first TD when the score was 9-0. Dantzler stripped and recovered a fumble with 5:29 left and the Vikings ahead.

In overtime, safety Harrison Smith had his team-best fourth interception to set up the game-winning field goal.

Offensively, wide receiver Justin Jefferson continued his brilliant rookie season with nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. He is now over 1,000 receiving yards in just 12 games.

Cousins finished 28-for-43 for 305 yards with three TDs and an interception while Cook rushed for 120 yards on 32 carries.

Two weeks ago the Vikings were riding a three-game winning streak and they proceeded to lose 31-28 to a 2-7 Dallas team. The Vikings have also lost a pair of games by one point.

Close games have been the norm. The Vikings have won five of their six games by eight or fewer points. The past two weeks they have had to post second-half rallies to win by one and three points.

"It's important that we're winning these games, but we've got to do these things better than we're doing," Zimmer said.

The Vikings play Tampa Bay next and still have games against New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago. Good luck trying to predict those games. The Vikings have a knack of playing up or down to the competition so it's more than likely that at least three of the four will be close.

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Guy N. Limbeck is a sports writer for the Rochester Post Bulletin. He can be reached at glimbeck@postbulletin.com .

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or glimbeck@postbulletin.com.
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