Sam Ekstrom gives his initial thoughts on Minnesota’s 27-23 win over the Denver Broncos.
The Vikings are developing a reputation for one annual no-show at U.S. Bank Stadium. For 30 minutes, it looked like this was the 2019 edition. After falling behind 20-0 and hearing boos from their own fans, the Vikings stormed back for the largest come-from-behind win in the Mike Zimmer Era.
And once again, it came down to a defensive stand in the red zone. Minnesota held from its own five-yard line, forcing three incompletions in the final 10 seconds to win. Jayron Kearse got away with possible pass interference on the final play to seal the win.
FIRST-HALF MELTDOWN: It’s hard to list everything that went wrong in the first half, but we’ll try…
- Minnesota gave up two long completions in the first quarter, both against well-positioned corners, one coming on a throw from wide receiver Courtland Sutton.
- Nullified a long completion to Stefon Diggs with a holding call on Riley Reiff that derailed the drive.
- Extended a Broncos drive with an illegal hands to the face penalty that wiped away a third-down stop.
- Turned the ball over twice inside their own 25-yard line — once on a strip sack of Kirk Cousins, the other on Ameer Abdullah’s ill-advised kickoff return.
- Bungled the clock management at the end of the first half, giving them little chance to get in field goal or touchdown range.
- Got Cousins sacked three times.
The Vikings looked shellshocked and ill-prepared against a team coming off a bye. Meanwhile, Minnesota might’ve been looking one week ahead to their own bye before waking up at halftime.
Cousins deserves criticism for his first half, but his second half was the stuff of true franchise quarterbacks. Cousins led four straight touchdown drives, converting five third downs and two fourth downs in the process.
He hit Tyler Conklin on a pivotal 3rd and 14, connected with Stefon Diggs deep for 44 yards to set Irv Smith Jr.’s first career touchdown. He managed an 18-play touchdown drive to pull within 10, then worked quickly with a 54-yard touchdown strike to Diggs on one of Cousins’ best throws of the year. And inheriting the ball down by three, Cousins led a five-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Kyle Rudolph’s touchdown grab. It was a master class in poise for a quarterback not known for it.
Meanwhile, the defense did its part. The Vikings held the Broncos to two field goal attempts in the second half, one of which was missed by Brandon McManus to keep it a three-point game. With the Vikings leading 27-23, they fended off Denver’s 19-play drive to clinch the victory.
STEFON DIGGS UPSET
Before the Vikings’ comeback, it looked like Cranky Diggs was back. During a frustrating first half, Diggs was routinely seen gesturing angrily after incompletions, and he brought his angst back to the sideline where he vented to teammates.
But that frustration seemed to fuel him as he hauled in two long catches in the second half, one for a touchdown, and surpassed 100 yards.
What looked to be a long couple weeks of discontentment for the emotional wide receiver turned around dramatically as the Vikings staged a historic comeback with Diggs at the center.
Andrew Sendejo was impactful in his first game back as a Viking. He started in place of the injured Anthony Harris, made a key third-down tackle early in the game, an interception late in the first half and was forced into an even bigger role when Harrison Smith departed late with a hamstring injury.
Other backup safety Jayron Kearse came up big on the final drive as well with four passes defended.