MINNEAPOLIS (AP)Greg Joseph kicked a career-long 61-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Minnesota Vikings a 27-24 victory that prevented the New York Giants from clinching a playoff spot on Saturday.
T.J. Hockenson had a career-high 13 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, who threw for a third score to Justin Jefferson with 3 minutes to go that was set up by a blocked punt and gave the Vikings (12-3) an eight-point lead.
Saquon Barkley’s 27-yard rush right up the middle on fourth-and-2 for the Giants (8-6-1) with 2:01 left and the ensuing 2-point conversion pass from Daniel Jones to Daniel Bellinger tied it up.
But despite a 7-yard sack by safety Landon Collins at the Minnesota 41 that forced the Vikings to burn their final timeout with 19 seconds on the clock, Cousins found Jefferson for yet another clutch third-down completion on a bubble screen. And the NFL’s leading receiver had room to take it all the way before being tripped after a 17-yard gain. Jefferson finished with 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Cousins spiked the ball, and on came Joseph for the on-target kick that had plenty of distance to spare to send the Vikings into a familiar sideline frenzy after yet another tense victory.
The Giants got the help they needed with losses by NFC pursuers Detroit and Seattle, but they didn’t seal the deal with the win to complete the equation of securing a wild-card spot.
Jones had 334 yards and a touchdown to Isaiah Hodgins on 30-for-42 passing, but his teammates – on offense and defense – had trouble hanging onto the ball.
Jones was picked off early in the fourth quarter at the Minnesota 18 when Hodgins hesitated for a step on his route and Patrick Peterson undercut him for the interception, but the Vikings turned the ball over on downs after that.
Bellinger lost a fumble at the Minnesota 23 in the first quarter. Richie James dropped a third-and-5 pass from the 37 that would’ve moved the sticks in the fourth quarter, forcing the Giants to settle for Graham Gano’s third field goal that cut the lead to 17-16 with 6:24 left.
Late in the third quarter, Cor’Dale Flott bobbled his interception attempt at the Giants 40. After replay review overturned the turnover call on the field, the Vikings resumed their drive and finished it in the end zone.
Hockenson made a leaping catch above safety Julian Love and cornerback Darnay Holmes that he secured with both hands all the way through the hard landing on his back. That 15-yard score gave Minnesota the lead back with 14:12 to go.
Rarely have these Vikings played a drama-free fourth quarter, though. Naturally, they wound up with another nail-baiting win, setting the NFL record with their 11th one-score victory of the season.
After their NFL-record comeback from a 33-point deficit to beat Indianapolis, the Vikings didn’t electrify the stadium like last week. They dodged the letdown that can follow a spirited win, though, unlike last month when their rally from a 17-point deficit to beat Buffalo preceded a 40-3 loss to Dallas.
STATS AND STUFF
Jefferson passed Randy Moss to set the single-season Vikings record for receiving yards with 1,723 and hit the 100-yard mark for the 24th time in his career. That’s the most in NFL history through a player’s first four seasons, and Jefferson is still in his third year.
Cousins became the fifth player in league history with 25-plus scoring passes in eight straight seasons, behind Peyton Manning (13), Drew Brees (11), Philip Rivers (11) and Tom Brady (10).
Giants: After the front four finally got healthy at the same time, DE Azeez Ojulari (ankle) was hurt in the second quarter and didn’t return. He has 4 1/2 sacks in the past four games. … CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee) was inactive for the fifth straight game.
Vikings: CB Cameron Dantzler (active) and C Garrett Bradbury (back) were inactive, replaced by Duke Shelley and Austin Schlottman in the starting lineup.
Giants: Host Indianapolis on Jan. 1.
Vikings: Play at Green Bay on Jan. 1.
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