The Minnesota Vikings had barely moved the ball at all when they gathered in a humbled locker room after an awful first half.
Picking up the pace with the two-minute offense was about their only hope of a comeback. They delivered one in stunning fashion against the Denver Broncos.
“Suddenly, it just has a different feel to it and the next thing you know, you’re going,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said.
Photo: Ben Ludeman-USA Today
The Vikings on Sunday erased a 20-0 halftime deficit with touchdowns on each of their four drives in the second half, fending off the Broncos by forcing three straight incomplete passes in the end zone over the final 10 seconds to preserve a 27-23 victory.
It was the first time in five years that an NFL team won after trailing by 20 or more points at halftime, though New England did defeat Atlanta in Super Bowl 51 after an 18-point deficit after two quarters grew to 28-3.
“We can’t count ourselves out. We had 30 minutes of football. Was it going to take perfect football? Most likely, but all we can go out there and do is worry about the first drive, and getting points, and see what happens,” Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said.
Cousins went 29 of 35 for 319 yards and three scores for the Vikings (8-3), overcoming a teamwide failure in the first half that included a lost fumble during a sack that led to one of three field goals by Denver’s Brandon McManus.
Cousins hit Stefon Diggs for a 54-yard touchdown pass that brought the crowd noise to a deafening level and cut the lead to 23-20.
McManus went wide right from 41 yards on his fourth attempt and Cousins found Rudolph wide open for a 32-yard score on the next possession with 6 minutes, 10 seconds left.
“I like when adversity hits and you see what kind of guys you’ve got,” Diggs said.
Both of those throws by Cousins came off bootleg rollouts to his left, the type of passing play he has long thrived on.
After being stymied for just 47 yards in the first half, the Vikings turned to their hurry-up offense with enviable results.
“Throwing an interception into double coverage is not going to get you back in the game,” Cousins said. “So you take what they give you. You play one play at a time and you trust that if they give you a shot, you take it.”
Brandon Allen, the fill-in quarterback after an injury to Joe Flacco and the impending debut of rookie Drew Lock, drove the Broncos to the cusp of a comeback of their own with a drive that included three fourth-down conversions.
With first-and-goal from the four, but only 10 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, Allen had three chances at the winner.
Trae Waynes knocked down the first one, Jayron Kearse had a hand on the second and the last attempt for Noah Fant sailed past the rookie tight end after he and Kearse tussled for position.
The Broncos have not scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter for six straight games. The last team guilty of such a severe second-half collapse was Atlanta on Oct. 26, 2014, when a 21-0 lead at home turned into a 22-21 victory for Detroit.
It was only the 14th time in NFL history that a 20-plus-point halftime lead turned into a defeat, Sportradar data showed.
“Didn’t sustain any drives and that put our defense in a bad spot,” Allen said.
Elsewhere, the Ravens thrashed the Texans 41-7, the Patriots downed the Eagles 17-10, the 49ers defeated the Cardinals 36-26, the Rams best the Bears 17-7 and the Saints spanked the Buccaneers 34-17.
The Cowboys tamed the Lions 35-27, the Colts crushed the Jaguars 33-13, the Bills sank the Dolphins 37-20, the Falcons soared past the Panthers 29-3, the Jets routed the Redskins 34-17 and the Raiders beat the Bengals 17-10.
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