MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Justin Jefferson got the ball just far enough across midfield for Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell to summon Greg Joseph for a kick he’d never before made in a game from that distance.
The Vikings found those extra edges in the crucial moments yet again.
Joseph’s franchise-record 61-yard field goal as time expired gave the Vikings a 27-24 victory on Saturday that prevented the New York Giants from clinching a playoff spot and set an NFL record with their 11th one-score win of the season.
“You don’t blink. You don’t flinch. You don’t waver,” said Joseph, who has made three game-winners with less than 25 seconds in regulation plus two overtime field goals this season. “Because we know where we’ve been, and we know what we’re capable of.”
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 time-consuming bubble screen. The NFL’s leading receiver had room to take it all the way before being tripped on a 17-yard gain.
Jefferson finished with 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. He converted third downs four times in the second half.
“It’s a pleasure and an honor to coach a player like that can show up in those biggest moments,” O’Connell said.
Cousins quickly spiked the ball before Joseph jogged out for an on-target kick that had plenty of distance to spare to send the Vikings into a familiar sideline frenzy after yet another tense victory.
“You could kind of feel it in the locker room just how proud everyone was of him,” O’Connell said.
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 required to secure a wild-card spot.
“We made more mistakes than them. Majority of the time or not, you’re going to lose those games,” said Barkley, who rushed 14 times for 84 yards.
Jones had 334 yards and a touchdown to Isaiah Hodgins with one interception on 30-for-42 passing, but his teammates — on offense and defense — had trouble hanging onto the ball.
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 a replay reversal of 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.
After their NFL-record comeback from a 33-point deficit to beat Indianapolis, the Vikings importantly dodged the letdown that can follow such a spirited win.
“They made the plays they needed to win it,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “Give them credit.”
JEFFERSON MOVES ON UP
Jefferson passed Randy Moss to set the single-season Vikings record for receiving yards with 1,756 and counting. He also hit the 100-yard mark for the 24th time in 48 games. That’s the most in NFL history through a player’s first four seasons, and Jefferson is still in his third year.
“You can’t amaze me anymore, just the things he’s able to do week in and week out,” Patrick Peterson said. “To be able to sustain that level of success is remarkable.”
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 4½ 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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