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NFL Week 15 takeaways: Vikings pull off historic comeback to win NFC North, 49ers clinch NFC West

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NFL Week 15 takeaways: Vikings pull off historic comeback to win NFC North, 49ers clinch NFC West

Welcome to Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season, where the playoff picture is beginning to take shape.

On Thursday, rookie quarterback Brock Purdy helped the the San Francisco 49ers clinch the NFC West by beating the division-rival Seattle Seahawks.

Saturday’s three-game slate started with the Minnesota Vikings hosting the Indianapolis Colts, where the Colts built a 33-0 halftime lead before Kirk Cousins and the Vikings pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history — clinching the NFC North in the process.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions off this week’s matchups and look ahead to what’s next. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:

SF-SEA | IND-MIN

Saturday

Vikings

What to know: The Vikings clinched the NFC North title in the most dramatic way imaginable, launching the largest comeback in NFL history — regular season or in the playoffs — to overcome a 33-point deficit to the Colts. Cornerback Patrick Peterson told players in the halftime locker room that that they would win if they could score five touchdowns thereafter, a whopping number that not everyone thought was realistic. But they did exactly that, and now have won 11 of the first 14 games of coach Kevin O’Connell‘s tenure.

Which Vikings team will we see in the playoffs? Is it the one that fell behind 33-0 at halftime, having allowed a blocked punt to be returned for one touchdown and an interception returned for another? Or is it the one that outscored the Colts 39-3 the rest of the way? No one was willing to say afterward the Vikings had solved all their deficiencies, but quarterback Kirk Cousins said that Saturday was “something that doesn’t happen to average people.” — Kevin Seifert

Next game: vs. Giants (Sat., Dec. 24, 1 p.m. ET)


Colts

What to know: The Colts’ second-half breakdown had many contributing factors. Chief among them were the offense’s inability to generate first downs and the defense’s failure to prevent big plays. On offense, the Colts produced just 132 yards in the final 40 minutes – the second half and overtime. That gave the Vikings numerous chances on offense, leaving the Indianapolis defense struggling to get stops. The big plays were especially damaging, with Minnesota ripping gains of 64, 63, 35 and 21 yards on plays in the second half. It takes a total collapse for a comeback of this magnitude to happen.

Is playcalling a big part of the Colts’ offensive issues? There were some curious playcalling decisions by the Colts in this game. When Indianapolis lost All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor on the opening series, you’d think it might impact their play selection. But the Colts still called 37 combined runs for backups Deon Jackson and Zack Moss. It made sense when the Colts were up big, leading 33-0 at one point. But their lack of production in the running game combined with the Vikings’ terrible pass defense begs the question of whether the Colts got too conservative. Jackson and Moss averaged a combined 3.7 yards per carry. — Stephen Holder

Next game: vs. Chargers (Mon., Dec. 26, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Thursday

49ers

What to know: Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy continues to pass every key test thrown his way, including fighting through a painful rib injury to help beat the Seahawks and win the NFC West division. It’s too early to say where this is going with Purdy but the Niners still have designs on winning the Super Bowl. It’s a huge ask of Purdy considering no rookie quarterback has ever started a Super Bowl, let alone won it. But the Niners have won seven in a row and Purdy has been unfazed by the spotlight so far.

Now that they’ve clinched the division, how will the Niners handle their final three games? The 49ers can’t drop below the No. 3 seed in the NFC but they can still realistically rise to No. 2. As long as that two spot is in play, don’t expect the Niners to take their foot off the gas, in part because they need to get Purdy as many snaps as possible before the postseason. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Commanders (Sat., Dec. 24, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Seahawks

What to know: The Seahawks have a long way to go before they can compete with San Francisco for NFC West supremacy. That was evident in their 20-point loss in Santa Clara in Week 2 and over the last month, as the 49ers blew out opponents while the Seahawks struggled against under-.500 teams. It was again obvious Thursday night as San Francisco controlled the game from start to finish with a third-string quarterback in Brock Purdy and no Deebo Samuel. It illustrated how big the gap has suddenly become between the 49ers and a Seattle team that used to own them not long ago.

Can the Seahawks still make the playoffs? That’s still very much in play. While they can no longer win the NFC West, ESPN’s Football Power Index had their chances of claiming one of the NFC’s two wild-card spots at 37% as of Friday. That’s because the Giants and Commanders also entered the weekend with seven wins, and Seattle has a head-to-head victory over New York. But it won’t be easy. Their defense has been reeling and they’ll be without star receiver Tyler Lockett for at least one game as he recovers from hand surgery. — Brady Henderson

Next game: at Chiefs (Sat., Dec. 24, 1 p.m. ET)

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