Upon Further Review: Another narrative debunked as Cousins, Vikings storm back
At halftime, it looked like the Minnesota Vikings were already on their bye week.
Minnesota trailed 20-0 at the break to Denver, making the Broncos’ no-name defense look like the 2015 unit that won a Super Bowl. Mentally, the Vikings were on vacation mode.
Denver’s offense, which hadn’t scored over 24 points in its last 18 games, tallied three plays of 30+ yards in the first half and walked away with points on four of seven possessions.
The Vikings were getting out-gained 217-47. Dalvin Cook, the NFL’s top rusher, had nine yards on four carries. The league’s leader in receptions of 20+ and 40+ yards, Stefon Diggs, wasn’t targeted once.
Coming off a statement primetime win in Dallas last week, the Vikings weren’t going to lay an egg against the lowly Broncos, were they?
Luckily, the sleepwalking team woke up at halftime. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings went on to score touchdowns on all four of their second-half drives and held off Denver on a last-second stand inside the five-yard line, escaping with a 27-23 victory.
Looking at the bigger picture, it was a monster come-from-behind win for the Vikings. They now enter a bye week at 8-3 — right behind rival Green Bay (8-2). The Packers had the week off but return to play Sunday night against the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers (9-1), a game they certainly could lose.
The NFC North could be tied heading into Week 13.
None of that, of course, would be possible without the Vikings’ second-half effort, good for the fourth-largest come-from-behind win in franchise history.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
For the second straight week, Cousins debunked a narrative that’s haunted his career. Last week, it was beating a winning team in a primetime game. And on Sunday, it was the illusive fourth-quarter comeback. Cousins got Minnesota on the scoreboard in the third quarter by tossing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Irv Smith Jr. (his first career score, by the way), but the Vikings still trailed by 13 heading into the final frame.
THAT’S WHAT WE LIKE TO SEE@Vikings are on the board
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) November 17, 2019
Cousins had never led the Vikings to a win when trailing in the fourth quarter. He came close last season in Green Bay with the team trailing by 13 in the fourth, but the Vikings came up just short thanks to a pair of infamous missed field goals in a 29-29 tie.
The 31-year-old conducted three more scoring drives in the final 15 minutes and threw for 261 yards on 18-of-23 passing in the second half. The game-winner went to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) November 17, 2019
Cousins isn’t getting enough credit for the Vikings’ run of six wins in their last seven games. On Sunday, the running game wasn’t working — Minnesota logged 37 rushing yards and averaged 2.1 yards per carry. It was all up to No. 8, who has now gone 177 pass attempts without an interception, the longest active streak in the NFL.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
Safety Jayron Kearse has a knack for being at the right place at the right time. Last week, he picked off a Hail Mary pass from Dak Prescott in the closing seconds to secure a win over the Cowboys. With 10 seconds to play and the ball at Minnesota’s 4-yard line, the Vikings were clinging to a 27-23 lead. Allen targeted receiver Tim Patrick on first down but missed. Trae Waynes made a nice play on the ball. The next two plays, Denver wanted to get the ball to Noah Fant, the 6-foot-4, 249-pound tight end and first-round pick out of Iowa. But Kearse was there both times to make yet another two game-saving plays.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 17, 2019
Minnesota might want to burn the tape from the first half, but there was one significant play that kept the game within reach. Denver had just pushed the lead to 20-0 with a Brandon McManus field goal with one minute remaining before the break. Vikings return man Ameer Abdullah coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff, gifting the Broncos the ball inside the red zone. But on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage, Allen misfired on a pass and it landed in the arms of Andrew Sendejo, filling in at safety for an injured Anthony Harris.
If Sendejo doesn’t intercept that pass and the Broncos drive down and score again, a 27-0 deficit likely would’ve been too much for Cousins and the Vikings to come back from.
Andrew Sendejo makes a big time play.pic.twitter.com/9UKQjD8dEC
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 17, 2019
40 — The Vikings are the first team in the last 40 seasons to score a touchdown on every second-half possession and win after trailing by 20 points at the half. Minnesota is also the first team in the last five years to come from behind down 20+ points through two quarters. Previous teams in that span were 0-99.
THEY SAID IT
“I talked to them (laughter). I talked to them. Yeah, I just basically told them we’ve got to — you know, everybody’s worrying about this and worrying about that. You’ve got to focus on your job. We’ve got to get lined up. We’ve got to go play fast, play hard, play together as a team, you know, do the things that we’re capable of doing. I don’t know if a speech really helps. It helped us going down the field on a scoring drive the second half to make it a two-score game. So that helped.” – head coach Mike Zimmer on what he said at halftime
“I don’t know. I’ll reminisce when I retire, which at games like this might be soon. I’m not sure my heart is still going.” — Zimmer on if this was the best comeback in his coaching career
“I want to thank our fans for sticking with us. They could have easily left at halftime, and I came back out to the start of the second half, and everybody was in their seats, and they brought a great amount of noise and energy all second half. I guarantee you that made a huge difference on the final drive that our defense got a stop.” — quarterback Kirk Cousins
“I can say that Kirk [Cousins] threw a great ball, as usual. He is playing lights out and doing a great job. You guys need to give him more credit. You are hard on him when he isn’t playing well and he’s doing everything that he can. Right now, he helped us get back in it to win the game and I want you guys to give him a pat on the back.” — wide receiver Stefon Diggs
It’s the bye week. After their week off, the Vikings are treated to a Monday Night Football matchup with Seattle (8-2), led by a top MVP candidate in Russell Wilson. Wilson has thrown for 2,737 yards, 23 touchdowns and two interceptions. He might be Minnesota’s toughest task to date.