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2022 NFL season's top 10 most improbable comebacks: Vikings' win over Colts is No. 2

Each week of the 2022 NFL season, the Next Gen Stats analytics team will present a different Position Power Ranking meant to spotlight the top performances among a specific group of players. And after a wild Week 15 that featured three teams overcoming at least a 17-point deficit to win for the first time in NFL history -- including the largest comeback of all time -- it seemed fitting to rank the top 10 most improbable comebacks of the season.

NOTE: The rankings are ordered based on the winning team's minimum win probability over the course of the game.

Where: TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.)

When: Nov. 27 (Week 12)

Jaguars' minimum win probability: 4.4%, when the Jaguars faced third-and-21 from their own 14-yard line and trailed 27-20 with 1:51 remaining in the game.

The Ravens have lost four games in which they had a win probability of 85 percent or greater at some point in the contest (tied for most in the NFL, with the Raiders), including the defeat listed here.

A Lamar Jackson TD pass put Baltimore up by seven points just before the two-minute warning, and shortly after that, a Calais Campbell sack put the Jaguars in a third-and-21 situation. However, a pair of Trevor Lawrence completions led to a fresh set of downs for Jacksonville. Later on that drive, Lawrence threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones with a remarkable 8.2% completion probability (fifth-most improbable this season).

Doug Pederson chose to go for two to get the lead, and it paid off with a Lawrence completion to Zay Jones, before Justin Tucker missed a would-be NFL record 67-yard field goal to seal the Jaguars’ win.

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)

When: Nov. 27 (Week 12)

Browns' minimum win probability: 3.6%, when the Bucs had first-and-10 on their own 20-yard line and led 17-10 with 2:35 remaining.

Week 12 was Jacoby Brissett’s final start for the Browns before Deshaun Watson returned from his suspension, and Brissett made sure to conclude his run as QB1 with a victory.

After punting when trailing 17-10 with 2:41 remaining, the Browns’ win probability fell to less than four percent. But the Cleveland defense forced a quick three-and-out, and Brissett got to work from there, leading a game-tying drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku on fourth-and-10. The drama continued, as the Browns had to force two Tampa Bay punts in overtime before Nick Chubb ended the game with a 3-yard rushing touchdown.

Where: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)

When: Dec. 8 (Week 14)

Rams' minimum win probability: 3.2%, when the Rams faced fourth-and-3 from their own 32-yard line and trailed 16-3 with 11:02 left in the game.

Baker Mayfield’s debut with the Rams began with him on the bench, but it ended with him leading the most thrilling moment of what’s been an otherwise disastrous season for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Mayfield and the offense struggled to move the ball for most of the game, and when they failed to convert on third-and-3 while trailing 16-3 in the fourth quarter, their win probability was down to 3.2%. However, the Raiders were flagged for lining up offside on the next play, allowing the Rams to continue their drive and eventually cut it to a one-score game. Los Angeles got the ball back at its own 2-yard line with less than two minutes remaining, and Mayfield’s heroics took over from there, as he led a remarkable game-winning drive.

Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)

When: Sept. 11 (Week 1)

Saints' minimum win probability: 2.8%, when the Falcons faced second-and-goal while leading 23-10 with 12:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.

In what now looks like a pivotal game in the NFC South race, Week 1's Saints-Falcons divisional matchup provided the first stunning comeback in a season teeming with them.  

The Saints' defense had been gashed by a relentless Falcons rushing attack for three quarters before buckling down in a goal-to-go situation with just under 13 minutes to play. In holding Atlanta to a field goal, keeping it a two-score game (26-10), New Orleans opened the door for the improbable. Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas connected on two separate touchdowns on goal-line fade routes against cornerback A.J. Terrell, bringing the Saints a two-point conversion away from tying the game at 26 apiece.

When that attempt failed, the onus returned to the defense to make a stop with under four minutes remaining. It wasn't seamless, but New Orleans forced a punt two minutes later, to give the Saints an opportunity to complete the comeback. On first-and-10 from the Saints' 20, with 48 seconds on the clock, Winston threw deep down the sideline to Jarvis Landry, who made a highlight reel catch for a 40-yard gain. Twenty-five seconds later, Wil Lutz connected on a game-winning 51-yard field goal. Who knew this Week 1 game would be a harbinger of things to come in a wild NFC South? 

Where: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)

When: Sept. 18 (Week 2)

Cardinals' minimum win probability: 1.7%, when the Raiders faced second-and-goal while leading 20-7 with 1:52 left in the third quarter.

There hadn’t been much to celebrate on the Cardinals' sideline as they watched Derek Carr take a snap late in the third quarter, just 7 yards shy of leading Las Vegas to its third TD of the day. But Arizona’s defense stood tall, holding the Raiders to a field goal and breathing some life back into Kliff Kingsbury’s crew. That optimism, however, would be short-lived, as the offense would stall on its next possession, failing to convert a fourth-and-1 after a long drive that ended on the Raiders’ 11-yard line. 

For the Cardinals, down 16 points with just over 12 minutes to play, hope seemed futile. And then their defense came through again, forcing a 24-second three-and-out that promptly put the ball back into Kyler Murray’s hands, triggering a series of game-changing plays by the two-time Pro Bowler.

On fourth-and-4 from the Raiders’ 25, Murray found Marquise Brown for a 24-yard gain on a slot fade that more than doubled Arizona’s win probability. After the Cardinals punched in the touchdown, Murray ran an astounding 84.9 yards on a the two-point conversion to make it a one-score game.

Murray and Co. would get the ball back again for one final drive in regulation and an opportunity to tie the game. The former No. 1 overall pick worked more of his magic, converting the team’s third straight fourth down -- this one on a 3-yard TD run -- before throwing a perfect ball in the back of the end zone to A.J. Green (after a delay of game penalty, no less) to send the game into overtime.

As had been the case late, the Cardinals defense showed up once more in the extra period, as Byron Murphy returned a Hunter Renfrow fumble 59 yards -- the longest fumble-return TD in overtime in NFL history.

Where: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)

When: Sept. 18 (Week 2)

Dolphins' minimum win probability: 1.3%, when the Dolphins trailed 35-14 with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s coming out party came in a Week 2 win over the Ravens -- specifically, during the fourth quarter of that game.

After a Lamar Jackson 79-yard rushing touchdown, Miami trailed 35-14 entering the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Dolphins' offense was as close to perfect as can be, with all four possessions in the final quarter concluding with Tagovailoa throwing a touchdown pass. He finished the contest with three touchdowns on deep passes, marking the first time in his career he had more than one such TD in a game.

The QB also had five passing touchdowns when his team had a sub-50 percent win probability pre-snap, the most in the Next Gen Stats era by any QB whose team went on to win a game. The Dolphins’ victory was the 10th comeback of 21-plus points in a fourth quarter in NFL history, and the first since the Eagles’ “Miracle at the New Meadowlands” in 2010.


Where: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, N.Y.)

When: Nov. 13 (Week 10)

Vikings' minimum win probability: 0.9%, when the Bills led 27-23 with 49 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and started a drive at their own 1-yard line.

Imagine if we told you that a team facing a fourth-and-18 from its own 27-yard line after the two-minute warning, while trailing by four points with one timeout remaining, went on to win a game. Now imagine if we told you that the winning team later faced an even lower win probability than it did at that moment. It might sound like fantasy, but it happened!

Justin Jefferson made one of the greatest catches in NFL history on fourth-and-18 to keep the Vikings alive. Later on that drive, the Vikings had two chances on fourth-and-goal from the Bills’ 1-yard line but failed to score. Game over, right? Not exactly.

The Vikings had a win probability of less than 1% at that point, but Josh Allen fumbled the snap on the next play and it was recovered by Eric Kendricks for a touchdown. Minnesota had a three-point lead with 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and Allen responded by leading an impressive field goal drive to send the game into overtime.

In OT, the Bills’ defense held the Vikings to a field goal, but after Allen led the Bills into the red zone on the ensuing drive, Patrick Peterson secured his second interception of the day to seal one of the most volatile games in recent memory.

Where: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Fla.)

When: Dec. 5 (Week 13)

Bucs' minimum win probability: 0.7%, when the Saints faced third-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 44 while leading 16-3 with 5:34 left in the game.

It wouldn’t be a list of comebacks if Tom Brady wasn’t on it somewhere.

This one started with a clutch defensive play, as Carlton Davis broke up a pass intended for Marquez Callaway on third-and-1 in Tampa Bay territory with the Buccaneers down by 13 late in the game. The Saints chose to punt after that, and from there, it was Tom Time. Brady worked the quick passing game on a touchdown drive to cut the deficit to six points, and after the Buccaneers forced a three-and-out, Brady got back to work again, leading another scoring drive that culminated in Rachaad White’s TD and the game-winning extra point.

The victory marked Brady’s 44th career fourth-quarter comeback, as he surpassed Peyton Manning for the NFL record. It was his second career comeback from a deficit of 13-plus points in the fourth quarter, joining the Patriots’ legendary Super Bowl LI win.

Where: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)

When: Dec. 17 (Week 15)

Vikings' minimum win probability: 0.4%, when the Colts led 33-0 with 12:22 left in the third quarter, as Indianapolis faced second-and-8 from its own 47-yard line.

Given that the Vikings pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history last week, it’s no surprise that their victory ranks highly on this list. In fact, the Vikings’ 0.4% minimum win probability isn’t only the second-lowest by any team in a win this season, but also the second-lowest for a winning team in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016).

So how did they make it happen?

Kirk Cousins’ elite play in the short game was the leading factor, as he went 22 of 25 for 266 yards and four touchdowns on passes of fewer than 10 air yards after halftime. Justin Jefferson played a major role as usual, with nine receptions for 99 yards and a TD on passes thrown outside the numbers. But really, it was the ultimate team effort, as five different Vikings players scored Minnesota’s five touchdowns in this legendary tale of two halves.

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)

When: Sept. 18 (Week 2)

Jets' minimum win probability: 0.3%, when the Browns took a 30-17 lead with 2:02 remaining in the game.

Having a mere 0.3% win probability after Nick Chubb scored to put the Browns up by 13 on the last play before the two-minute warning, the Jets set the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016) record for the lowest win probability by any team that went on to win a game.

It all started with Cade York's missed extra point to keep the lead at 13. Seconds later, the Jets' busted coverage led to a Corey Davis 66-yard TD followed by reserve CB Justin Hardee making a diving recovery on the Braden Mann onside kick, and the Jets were back in business.

Facing third-and-10 with 24 seconds on the clock, Joe Flacco bested the Browns' zone coverage with a TD dart to Garrett Wilson before Greg Zuerlein's extra point gave the Jets their first lead of the game. Ashtyn Davis then sealed the team's most unlikely comeback with a pick of Jacoby Brissett.

-- Mike Band, Keegan Abdoo and Cole Jacobson contributed to this piece.

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