MINNEAPOLIS -- Hold off on closing the door on the Indianapolis Colts having a chance to the win the AFC South.
It’s OK if you’re scratching your head trying to figure out the Colts. You’re likely not the only one.
"We’re good enough to play with anybody," Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. "We just have to show up every week. Any given Sunday you can get embarrassed."
It was just a week ago that the Colts had one of their worst efforts of the season, losing to the Houston Texans and blowing their chance to control their own destiny in the division.
But now Indianapolis is right back in the thick of things.
The Colts did their part by dismantling the Vikings. While that was happening, Houston and Tennessee -- the two teams in front of the Colts in the division -- were struggling in their games, giving hope that Indianapolis could jump back into the mix with two games remaining. The Texans and Titans both rallied to pull off come-from-behind victories, which pushes the Colts closer to missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
"Right now we’re playing well, [but] unfortunately we do need help and we’re not controlling our own destiny," Colts safety Mike Adams said. "That’s the most unfortunate part right now. If we didn’t need help, we’re clicking at the right time. Our momentum right now is crazy."
Colts coach Chuck Pagano spent the days leading up to Sunday consistently saying his team would be ready for a Vikings team that went into the game with the NFL’s second-best defense and that was getting All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson back for the first time since Week 2.
The Colts in turn had to get over the mental hurdle of losing to the Texans, and were also starting three rookies on the offensive line.
None of those things was an issue for the Colts, and their defense smothered the Vikings' offense all game.
Rookies Ryan Kelly, Le'Raven Clark and Joe Haeg teamed with Jonotthan Harrison and Anthony Castonzo to help quarterback Andrew Luck go 21-of-25 for 250 yards with two touchdowns, and the Colts gained 161 yards on the ground. And just as important, the Colts didn’t give up a quarterback sack.
After giving up 31 sacks in their first eight games, the Colts have allowed only nine sacks in their past six games.
"Nobody thought the O-line was going to come and do the job that they did," Pagano said. "They all got game balls. Those guys manned up and they did one heck of a job against a really good defense, the No. 2 defense in the National Football League."
Give Luck time and open up holes for the running backs, and Indianapolis will be in the playoff race until it’s over. That’s why they had two touchdown drives of at least 91 yards in the first half.
The roof at U.S. Bank Stadium was ready to come off when Peterson came out of the tunnel and onto the field at the start of the game.
That didn't matter to the Colts' defense, which has been in the bottom third of the NFL most of the season. The D held the Vikings to just two first downs in the first half, recorded five sacks and forced three turnovers.
And now there's hope again that the Colts can find their way into the playoffs.
"The margin of error is always slim in December, no matter what situation you're in," Luck said. "We know what situation we put ourselves in, and that's the reality of it. We'll go out and keep preparing."