The Minnesota Vikings followed a similar script Sunday in Washington D.C., getting off to a hot start, and allowing the opponent to storm back before Kirk Cousins and Co. make enough plays late to secure a win.
The Vikes got down, 17-7, early in the fourth quarter but scored on three straight drives, and the defense smothered the Commanders to take a 20-17 victory.
"I think it's complementary football in the critical moments of games that define good teams in this league," coach Kevin O'Connell said Monday, via the official team transcript. "You don't always win with style, but when you're able to win football games and consistently win close games by winning in the fourth quarter, that does matter. Ultimately, you hate to continue to put yourselves in positions where you need to come from behind and win, but at least we know we've kind of removed all doubt and have a belief in ourselves that we can go get those wins when we have to."
The victory pushed the Vikings to 7-1, and a 4.5-game lead in the NFC North, the largest division lead a team has generated through Week 9 since the San Francisco 49ers had a five-game lead in the NFC West in 2011, per NFL Research.
All 20 of Minnesota's points came in the first and fourth quarters, scoring on its first possession and final three drives. The Vikings had five punts and a Cousins threw interceptions in the second and third quarters.
O'Connell's opening scripts have been solid, but the middle two frames have been wanting for most of the season. But, as they have throughout 2022 so far, the Vikings were able to kick it into gear in the fourth quarter.
"It felt in a lot of ways like our other wins this season where you can't point to a perfectly played offensive game where everything clicked, but just defense picking us up, special teams picking us up, and then finding a way to make enough plays at the end and finding inches," Cousins said.
The Vikings have their stiffest stretch of the season ahead with games against Buffalo, Dallas, New England and the upstart New York Jets on the docket. It will take more consistent play to keep their six-game win streak alive. Coming out of that four-game stretch ahead could have the Vikes clinching the division well before Christmas.