The Jets dug deep in the second half and found a lot of that green miracle dust that has sustained them through this magical season.
But not enough. Despite getting the ball to Minnesota's 1-yard line twice and then inside the 20 on their final drive as they tried to take their first and last lead of the day, they fell short as Mike White's fourth-down line drive, back to that 1-yard line for Corey Davis, was intercepted by S Camryn Bynum, securing the Vikings' 27-22 interconference victory.
The Jets, so close to going 8-4 and inching higher up the AFC's playoff rankings, fell instead to 7-5. And it was another bitter loss, not in the same manner as the 10-3 loss at New England two weeks ago. This time the Jets fought back from a 20-6 halftime deficit to make a game of it with some remarkable individual performances.
White for starters completed 31 of 57 passes for 369 yards. Eight of those completions went to rookie Garrett Wilson for 162 yards, giving him his third 100-yard receiving game to break a tie he held with Al Toon from 1985 for most 100-yard games by a Jets rookie in a season. Undrafted rookie free agent Zonovan Knight had another 100-scrimmage-yard game, 118 yards to be exact, giving him two in his first two pro starts.
On defense, DL Quinnen Williams notched his ninth sack of the season, the secondary led by CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed held Justin Jefferson to seven catches for 45 yards — but a key TD midway through the final period — and the Vikings to 89 yards and six first downs in the final 30 minutes of play.
But in the end, the second-best team in fourth-quarter point margin, the Vikes, held on against the top-ranked team in fourth-quarter point margin, the Jets, to improve to 10-2 and clinch the NFC North title. The Jets, meanwhile, remain at No. 7 in the AFC playoff grid but are vulnerable to fall with a surge by the L.A. Chargers, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Patriots, who could have been two games behind the Jets but are now 6-6.
Green & White Come Alive
The Jets made it more interesting and then more interesting after that through the second half. Greg Zuerlein, who set the franchise field goal distance record with a 60-yard kick in the second quarter, hit three straight field goals to move the visitors to within 20-15 with 12:30 to play.
Minnesota and particularly its rabid fans at noisy U.S. Bank Stadium may have thought the home side had finally salted it away when Jefferson gathered in a 10-yard touchdown strike from Kirk Cousins for a 27-15 lead with 8:33 left.
But the Jets were intent, if not in winning this nailbiter, in at least making it closecloseclose.
White directed a 75-yard drive to the Jets' first TD of the game, which came on White's fourth-down keeper that initially was ruled no touchdown but was reversed by referee Clete Blakeman into a plane-breaking touchdown. The deficit was now 27-22.
The Jets defense's third 3-and-out series of the game gave the ball back to the Green & White and they drove 83 yards this time back to the Vikings doorstep. But they were kept out of the house, with White's fourth-down pass falling incomplete in the end zone when Braxton Berrios couldn't hold on.
Game over with 1:43 to go? Not quite. The Jets had three timeouts, used them all, and forced another 3-and-out. They would have one more chance, with 1:19 left and no timeouts, to pull out another dazzling fourth-quarter comeback, which would've been their franchise-record fourth of the season. But it was not to be.
See the best images from the Week 13 matchup between the Jets and Vikings.
Few Good Omens in Sluggish First Half
The game began somewhat slowly and perhaps just a little nervously for White. He hit his first two passes of the game but his third was deflected off WR Corey Davis and into the hands of Vikings S Hunter Smith, with the return to the Jets 34. The Green & White defense held on three plays, but K Greg Joseph, who had missed his previous five kicks from 50-plus yards, nailed this one from 51 yards out for a 3-0 lead 2:22 into the festivities.
The Jets responded similarly, with a 45-yard drive into Greg Zuerlein range, with "Legatron" coming on for a 48-yard field goal to tie the score back up at 3-3.
Both QBs were off-target the rest of the first quarter. Cousins started 0-for-5 and hit one of his first eight passes. But he completed his last two of the quarter and continued that streak into the second quarter as the Vikings moved all the way to RB Dalvin Cook's first-and-goal 4-yard touchdown run for a 10-3 Vikings lead.
Key on these drives by the home team were some calls against the visiting defense. The Jets had come into the game on something of a penalty diet in the past four games and with nothing marked off against the defense for the previous three games. But three of the four starting DBs each got hit with yellow flags — CBs D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner with holds and S Jordan Whitehead for unnecessary roughness with a high hit on Justin Jefferson on the TD drive.
The Vikings continued to slowly take control in the first half, with Cousins standing in against a big rush by DL Nathan Shepherd to find WR Jalen Reagor down the deep incut for 38 yards to the Jets 24. That set up Alexander Mattison's first-down 14-yard TD burst with 3:35 to play in the first half for a 17-3 lead.
Then Robert Saleh, OC Mike LaFleur and the offense gambled, deciding to go for it on fourth-and-2 from their 43 at the two-minute warning. White's pass couldn't be reeled in by TE Tyler Conklin. The Vikings took over in fine field position with three timeouts left. They moved 17 yards before Joseph came on for a 41-yard field goal and a 20-3 lead with 40 seconds left.
With two timeouts of their own remaining, the Jets tried to get within a long-range three-point try from Zuerlein. They got across midfield to the Minnesota 42 with 13 seconds left. It appeared Saleh didn't think they were close enough for a Zuerlein try, but the Vikings called a timeout, Saleh reconsidered and sent "Legatron" on to try to convert the first 60-yard FG in franchise history
And Zuerlein converted with room to spare. The kick not only set the franchise record (breaking the 57-yard mark held by Chandler Catanzaro in 2017 and matched by Zuerlein twice this season) but it also bailed out the Jets from a bad end-of-half scenario and also cut their deficit to 20-6 as the teams went into the U.S. Bank locker rooms.
Then the Vikings got the ball to start the third quarter but the Jets defense, under the gun in the first half, threw up its first 3-and-out of the game. A disastrous scenario surrounding halftime was mitigated. Now all the Jets had to do was find a way to put up two more TDs than the Vikings in the game's final 30 minutes.