TJ Hockenson had a career-high 13 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, who threw a third set-up by a blocked punt to Justin Jefferson three minutes from time to give the Vikings (12-3). eight points ahead.
Saquon Barkley’s 27-yard rush for fourth and second for the Giants (8-6-1) with a 2:01 lead and the subsequent two-point conversion pass from Daniel Jones to Daniel Bellinger tied it.
But despite a seven-yard sack by safety Landon Collins at the Minnesota 41 that forced the Vikings to burn through their last timeout with 19 seconds left on the clock, Cousins found Jefferson for another third clutch completion on a time-consuming bubble screen. The NFL’s leading receiver had room to take it all the way before tripping on a 17-yard gain.
Jefferson finished with 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he converted four third downs.
“It’s a pleasure and an honor to coach such a player who can shine in those biggest moments,” said O’Connell.
Cousins quickly jabbed the ball before Joseph jogged for a shot on goal that went wide to send the Vikings into a familiar touchline frenzy after another tense win.
“You could tell in the dressing room how proud everyone was of him,” said O’Connell.
The Giants got the help they needed with losses from NFC chasers Detroit and Seattle, but they didn’t seal the deal with the win needed to secure a wildcard berth.
“We made more mistakes than they did. In most cases, you’re either going to lose those games or not,” said Barkley, who had 14 rushes for 84 yards.
Jones had 334 yards and a touchdown against Isaiah Hodgins with an interception on a 30-for-42 pass, but his teammates — on offense and defense — struggled to keep the ball.
Bellinger lost a fumble at the Minnesota 23 in the first quarter. Richie James dropped a third and fifth pass from the 37 that would have moved the sticks in the fourth quarter, forcing the Giants to settle for Graham Gano’s third field goal, which cut the lead to 17-16 with 6:24.
Late in the third quarter, Cor’Dale Flott loafed his interception attempt at the Giants’ 40. After a replay reversal of the turnover call on the field, the Vikings resumed their drive and ended it in the end zone.
Hockenson made a jumping catch over safe Julian Love and cornerback Darnay Holmes, which he secured with both hands on his back during the hard landing. That 15-yard score gave Minnesota back the lead to go 14-12.
After their NFL-record comeback from a 33-point deficit against Indianapolis, the Vikings avoided the disappointment that can follow such a spirited win.
“They made the games it took them to win it,” said Giants coach Brian Daboll. “Give them credit.”
JEFFERSON MOVES UP
Jefferson passed Randy Moss to set the Vikings’ all-season rushing yards record with 1,756 yards. He also hit the 100-yard mark for the 24th time in 48 games. That’s the most in NFL history in a player’s first four seasons, and Jefferson is still in his third year.
“You can’t surprise me anymore, just the things he can do week in and week out,” Patrick Peterson said. “To be able to maintain this level of success is remarkable.”
Giants: After the front four finally recovered, DE Azeez Ojulari (ankle) injured himself in the second quarter and didn’t return. He has 4 1/2 sacks in the last 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 XI.
Giants: Host Indianapolis on January 1st.
Vikings: Play Green Bay on January 1st.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Dave Campbell, The Associated Press