Justin Jefferson’s touchdown catch with 8:33 left gave the Minnesota Vikings enough of a lead to hang on for a 27-22 victory despite a relentless rally by the New York Jets on Sunday.
Camryn Bynum’s interception at the 1-yard line with 10 seconds left finally sealed it for the Vikings (10-2), who completed a four-game sweep of the AFC East in their typical nail-biting fashion.
Mike White, who was picked off twice, was 31 of 57 for 369 yards in his second start this season for the Jets (7-5). He scored on a fourth-and-goal sneak from the 1 to pull within five points with 6:45 to go after a replay review reversed the initial ruling that he was stopped short.
With 1:43 remaining, White’s fourth-and-goal pass from the 1 was incomplete when Braxton Berrios bobbled it and the ball hit the turf. The Jets had all three timeouts left and got the ball right back at the Minnesota 43, but with White under plenty of pressure they stalled out at the 19.
Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison rushed for first-half touchdowns and Greg Joseph made all five of his kicks for the Vikings, who took a 20-3 lead late in the second quarter.
Blowouts just aren’t their thing, though. They netted 10 yards on three third-quarter possessions and found themselves in their ninth one-score game of the season.
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After keeping the Jets fully in check for the first three quarters, the Vikings badly missed some crucial tackles and allowed three plays of 30-plus yards in the final 15 minutes to aid the rally.
White had folk-hero status after passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns to beat Chicago in his first start following the benching of 2021 second overall draft pick Zach Wilson. This performance sure didn’t hurt his reputation.
Third-down conversions (3 for 16) and red zone touchdowns (1 for 6) situations are the ones to work on. The Jets had to settle for five field goals from Greg Zuerlein, including a franchise-record 60-yarder at the end of the first half.
With a formidable four-man rush led by Quinnen Williams on the interior and stingy pass coverage with star rookie Sauce Gardner, the Jets presented the type of defense — ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in most major categories — that typically gives Kirk Cousins the most trouble.
Seven of his first eight passes were incomplete, but he found his rhythm on one of Minnesota’s hardest-earned touchdown drives of the season. Gardner and fellow cornerback D.J. Reed were all over Jefferson, but he drew a holding penalty on each of them during the 14-play march when he ran the ball twice. Most important was his over-the-middle catch before safety Jordan Whitehead leveled him with a hit flagged for unnecessary roughness. Cook scored on the next play from the 4.
After the Cousins-Jefferson connection sparked their spirited win over New England last week, the Vikings had to do this the harder way. Cousins lowered his shoulder for contact with star linebacker C.J. Mosley at the end of an 11-yard scramble on third-and-9 during another touchdown drive.
Cousins finished 21 of 35 for 173 yards and a touchdown.
GREG THE LEG
The previous field goal record for the Jets was 57 yards, shared by Zuerlein (twice earlier this year) and Chandler Catanzaro (2017). This was the third time in 163 career games Zuerlein made five or more field goals. He went 7 for 7 for the Rams in a 2017 game.
Jets: RB Michael Carter (ankle) was inactive. Rookie Zonovan Knight, who got his first start at running back, had 90 yards on 15 carries. … Max Mitchell started at RT for Cedric Ogbuehi (groin), but George Fant took over for Mitchell in the second quarter. … DT Sheldon Rankins returned from a two-game absence to an elbow injury. … Nickel CB Michael Carter II (ankle) left in the second quarter. … Backup DE Michael Clemons (knee) was hurt in the third quarter, but returned.
Vikings: LT Christian Darrisaw (concussion) was sidelined for the second straight game. … Evans returned after a two-game absence to a concussion. He went back in the protocol after landing hard on his head in the third quarter. … DE Jonathan Bullard (elbow) left in the first quarter, with backup Ross Blacklock (illness) already scratched. … DE Dalvin Tomlinson returned from a four-game absence to a calf injury.
Jets: at Buffalo next Sunday. They beat the Bills 20-17 at home on Nov. 6.
Vikings: at Detroit next Sunday. They beat the Lions 28-24 at home on Sept. 25.
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