After a loss in Week 4 to the Detroit Lions dropped the Minnesota Vikings to 2-2 on the year, defensive end Everson Griffen was very clear about what his team needed to do.
Go 4-0 in the second quarter of the 2017 season.
On Sunday afternoon in London, the Vikings completed Griffen’s challenge by winning their fourth straight game, a 33-16 handling of the winless Browns.
It wasn’t pretty at first — Cleveland led 13-12 at halftime and 16-15 in the third quarter — but Minnesota’s defense overwhelmed rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in the final frame and hung on for the win.
Case Keenum threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns, Jerick McKinnon totaled 122 yards and the Vikings held Kizer to 161 passing yards in front of a crowd of football-turned-football fans at Twickenham Stadium.
Here’s a recap of Sunday’s game (Story | Photos):
USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Adam Thielen was awarded the “Man of the Match” after Sunday’s game, and he’s our MVP, too. Thielen caught five of his 10 targets for 98 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown, his first of the year. He celebrated in proper soccer fashion, sliding on his knees with his hands pointed to the sky like he just won the Premier League. Thielen, who wore an Arsenal soccer jersey in his postgame press conference, has recorded at least five receptions in all eight games this year and has surpassed 90 yards in four of them. He ranks second in the NFL with 627 receiving yards, trailing only three-time All-Pro Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Does the water tower in Detroit Lakes read “Home of Adam Thielen” yet? It should.
USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
McKinnon rushed 14 times for 50 yards and a touchdown, which isn’t too noteworthy, but he also grabbed six passes for 72 yards, including a 20-yard reception that set up an eventual field goal for Kai Forbath before halftime.
McKinnon has improved greatly in the run game. He’s making more defenders miss every week and, for the most part, can be trusted in pass-blocking situations. The combination of him and Latavius Murray in the backfield looks stable enough to support a division title and playoff run.
Vikings fans were holding their breath in the final minutes of Sunday’s game. Not because Cleveland’s offense was coming back — it was far from it — but defensive end Everson Griffen hadn’t picked up a sack yet. But on fourth-and-10 from the Browns’ 42-yard line, safety Harrison Smith had a clear path to Kizer on a blitz. Kizer stepped out of the way and Smith was only able to get a hand on him, but the rookie quarterback fell right into the paws of Griffen and was immediately brought down. That marked Griffen’s eighth straight game with a sack and 10th overall in 2017, good for second in the NFL.
USA TODAY SportsSteve Flynn
The Vikings held a 15-minute advantage in time of possession over the Browns, 37:52 to Cleveland’s 22:08. Four of the Browns’ five fourth-quarter possessions went three-and-out, the only exception being and eight-play, 16-yard drive that ended in a turnover on downs after Griffen’s sack. Minnesota ate much of the clock in the second half with back-to-back possessions that lasted over four minutes and resulted in touchdowns, putting the game out of reach and burying concerns of a “trap game” in London.
THEY SAID IT
“Four weeks ago, I met with the captains. They told me, ‘Hey, we have to emphasize that we need to be 6-2 at the bye.’ And we are. Hell of a job, fellas.” — Head coach Mike Zimmer addressing the locker room
“Our team is on fire. We have great team chemistry. … Like I always say, I can’t do it without my defensive line. When I get a sack, everybody’s working together.” — defensive end Everson Griffen
“Just going to brag about my players for a minute. Over at the hotel that we stayed at, we had four teams stay there, and they came up to me and said, ‘this is the best, most well-mannered group they have ever had. They sit together, they eat together, they hang out together, say please and thank you.’ So that made me feel good. And they won today, so that made me feel better.” — head coach Mike Zimmer
“I’ve always played FIFA growing up. Seeing those guys celebrate, kinda got inspiration from that. Supposedly, I guess I stole it. Kyle Rudolph did it in practice the other day; I must have saw it and wanted to do it, too. I beat him to the punch, I guess.” — wide receiver Adam Thielen on his soccer-inspired touchdown celebration
Minnesota gets a well-deserved week off before visiting the nation’s capital to face the Washington Redskins (3-4) on Nov. 12. Washington lost 33-19 to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and face the Seattle Seahawks on the road next week.