The Minnesota Vikings capped off the biggest comeback in NFL history, erasing a 33-point halftime deficit to complete a wild 39-36 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Kirk Cousins threw for 417 yards in the second half and overtime, the most by any player in NFL history — fitting for the biggest comeback in league history.
Since the Vikings decided to rewrite the NFL record books, let’s take a look at the five biggest comebacks in NFL history — including the record Minnesota surpassed in the process.
1. Minnesota Vikings 39, Indianapolis Colts 36 (OT) — 33 points (Week 15, 2022 regular season)
The largest comeback in NFL history belongs to the Vikings, who overcame a 33-0 halftime deficit to pull of the improbable comeback and clinch the NFC North title. Cousins threw four touchdown passes in the second half as the Vikings erased a 36-7 deficit with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter to score the final 32 points in this one.
Minnesota scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, tying the game on a Dalvin Cook 64-yard touchdown reception from Cousins with 2:15 to play in regulation. The Vikings got the ball in overtime — after punting on their first overtime possession — with 1:41 to play as Cousins led the Vikings 60 yards down the field that resulted in a Greg Joseph 40-yard field goal for the win with three seconds remaining in overtime.
Cousins overcame two interceptions to throw for 460 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. Colts quarterback Matt Ryan ended up being the starting quarterback on two 25-point blown leads, the only quarterback in league history to have this distinction.
2. Buffalo Bills 41, Houston Oilers 38 (OT) — 32 points (1992 AFC Wild Card playoffs)
What was the largest comeback in NFL history is still one of the most improbable victories the league has ever seen. Bill’s backup quarterback Frank Reich engineered the game known as “The Comeback” as Buffalo erased a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to pull off the victory.
Reich threw four touchdown passes in the second half, three to Andre Reed and one to Don Beebe as the Bills took a 38-35 lead with 3:08 to play (Reich threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Reed). The Oilers rallied to tie it as Warren Moon led them on a 63-yard drive that resulted in an Al Del Greco field goal to send the game to overtime.
Houston got the ball first in overtime, but Moon threw an interception to Nate Odomes that gave the Bills the ball at the Oilers’ 20-yard line. Replay showed that intended target Ernest Givins was held by Darryl Talley, but no flag was thrown. Steve Christie hit a 32-yard field goal to complete the improbable comeback as the Bills would end up going to their third consecutive Super Bowl a few weeks later.
3. Indianapolis Colts 45, Kansas City Chiefs 44 — 28 points (2013 AFC Wild Card playoffs)
In his first season with the Chiefs, Andy Reid looked to be cruising toward a playoff victory after leading 38-10 early in the third quarter after Knile Davis caught a 10-yard pass from Alex Smith. The Colts outscored the Chiefs 21-3 for the remainder of the quarter to cut the deficit to 41-31 entering the fourth.
Indianapolis actually fumbled the ball trying to cut the deficit to three when Andrew Luck recovered the fumble and run the ball in for a touchdown in one of the weirdest plays in NFL history. Luck hit TY Hilton for a 64-yard touchdown pass with 4:21 left to give Indianapolis a 45-44 lead, as the Colts held the Chiefs on their ensuing possession to cap the comeback.
Luck threw for 443 yards with four touchdowns, overcoming three interceptions in the process. Hilton caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns as both teams finished with over 500 yards of offense.
The legend of Joe Montana in San Francisco was started in this game. San Francisco was outgained 324-21 in the first half and trailed 35-7 at halftime, with the 49ers’ only touchdown coming on a 57-yard punt return by Freddie Solomon.
Montana threw for two touchdown passes in the second half, a 71-yard pass to Dwight Clark and then a 14-yard pass to Solomon to make it 35-28. Lenvil Elliott tied the game with a 7-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Montana capped the comeback in overtime, as the 49ers clinched the victory with Ray Wersching drilling a 36-yard kick. Montana threw for two touchdown passes and rushed for one in the second half, finishing 24 of 36 for 285 yards. The Saints fell to 0-14 with the loss, the worst defeat for the infamous “Aints.”
5. Buffalo Bills 37, Indianapolis Colts 35 — 26 points (Week 4, 1997 regular season)
Buffalo trailed by 26 points in the second quarter before Todd Collins led the Bills to 10 unanswered points before halftime to make the deficit manageable. Antowain Smith rushed for three touchdowns in the second half, including a 54-yard run with 5:21 to play to give Buffalo a 37-29 lead.
The game wasn’t finished, as Colt’s backup quarterback Paul Justin hit Marvin Harrison on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left. The Colts went for the two-point conversion and the tie to force overtime, but Kurt Schulz broke up Justin’s pass for Harrison to keep the 37-35 lead.
Indianapolis recovered the onside kick and tried two desperation passes, but the final one toward the end zone was picked off by Ken Irvin. Buffalo won despite five turnovers and two muffed punts.
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