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Vikings move into a playoff spot in a season that once appeared to be lost

JAGUARS VIKINGS
El pateador de los Vikings de Minnesota Dan Bailey patea el gol de campo del triunfo en tiempo extra ante los Jaguars de Jacksonville el doingo 6 de diciembre del 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings entered their bye week with an atrocious performance in a loss to the previously winless Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium that dropped them to 1-5, and had the fan base considering whether changes were necessary and just how high the team might be drafting in the spring.

Less than two months later, the Vikings overcame another poor performance, this time against 1-10 Jacksonville, to beat the Jaguars 27-24 in overtime. The victory might not have earned coach Mike Zimmer’s team any style points but it did improve the Vikings to 6-6. That’s enough to put Minnesota in the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC. The NFL has expanded from six to seven playoff teams in each conference this season.

The Cardinals fell to 6-6 after a 38-28 loss Sunday to the visiting Los Angeles Rams, and Minnesota holds the tie-breaker based on best win percentage in common games. The Vikings are a game behind sixth-seeded Tampa Bay, which had a bye on Sunday and will play host to Minnesota next Sunday.

The Vikings trailed Jacksonville, 16-6, early in the third quarter after linebacker Joe Schobert picked off Kirk Cousins’ pass for Dalvin Cook and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. But in a game filled with mistakes by both teams, the Vikings were able to prevail and come away with their fifth victory in six games since the bye.

The lone loss was to Dallas three weeks ago, in the first game of a three-game homestand. Minnesota beat Carolina, 28-27, last Sunday. Both the Panthers and Jaguars missed game-winning field-goal attempts as time expired in the fourth quarter. Chase McLaughlin’s 62-yard attempt fell short for Jacksonville.

The Vikings suffered a setback in pregame warmups when star linebacker Eric Kendricks aggravated a calf injury and the decision was made to hold him out.