En route to a 10-2 record, the Vikings have forged such a bizarre amalgam of clutch play and sheer luck that they deserve their own word.
Lucky plus clutch equals "clucky.'' Which sounds like "plucky,'' but is adapted to the chicken-and-egg nature of parity-filled football: Do the Vikings appear to be good because they are so lucky, or is their luck the residue of design?
They are 9-0 in one-score games (defined as eight points or fewer). They might be the luckiest 10-win team in recent NFL history. They might be on their way to becoming the luckiest 14- or 15-win team in history.
Sunday, they defeated the New York Jets 27-22. If Jets receiver Braxton Berrios had held onto a pass in the end zone, today's stories would be about an epic Vikings collapse against a mediocre offense, an absent pass rush, a shredded secondary, Kirk Cousins' inaccuracy and the possibility of losing the No. 2 seed.
Because Berrios dropped the ball, today's stories are about rallying to win close games, Camryn Bynum's interception, locker room confidence and cohesion, Cousins' physical and mental toughness and the possibility of winning the No. 1 seed.
Sheil Kapadia of The Ringer reported that in the past 20 years, 53 teams have won 10 games through the first 13 weeks of an NFL season. The Vikings' plus-10 point differential ranks last among those teams. No other such team had a worse differential than plus-36.
The Vikings' brain trust made a number of shrewd decisions to build a team capable of winning. One of their best decisions was crossing their fingers around a rabbit's foot tied to a horseshoe, because luck is one of the most important variables — and constants — in sports.
"I just don't think it's an accident that our team — we keep using the term, 'Finding ways to win,'" Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said. "I know our team is confident when we get into the fourth quarter with winnable situations out in front of us."
"I think it really comes down to us trusting and believing in one another,'' running back Alexander Mattison said.
Minnesota has produced six major-sports pro championships in modern history. The Twins won in 1987 and '91; the Lynx won four between 2011 through 2017.
In '87, the Twins won 85 regular-season games. In '86 or '88, that number would have landed them in second or third place, respectively, in the old American League West Division, well out of playoff contention. In '87, they won a seven-team division by two games.
In '91, the Twins won a World Series in which first baseman Kent Hrbek was allowed to pull Atlanta's Ron Gant off first base for a key out.
In 2010, Cheryl Reeve's first season as coach, the Lynx — who had won one playoff game in their existence — finished 13-21 and landed in the WNBA draft lottery. Tulsa (6-28) had a 44.2% chance to get the No. 1 pick, but it instead went to the Lynx (27.6% chance), and so did the great Maya Moore.
If the Lynx don't luck into the first pick, the Lynx don't get Moore and might have won zero titles instead of four.
Luck informs the dominant story lines in recent sports history as well.
Only the infamous "Tuck Rule" allowed Bill Belichick and Tom Brady an opportunity to win their first Super Bowl following the 2001 season, and if not for an injury to franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Brady might not have played that season.
The Vikings are headed to the playoffs, and their luck might continue. The 49ers had emerged as one of the best teams in the NFL. On Sunday, their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was lost for the season because of a broken foot.
Luck, in the NFL, might be the residue of other team's problems.
As for the 2022 Vikings, the biggest question they face is whether being lucky and clutch is sustainable or predictive, a question that might not be answered until January or later.