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Week 11 Game Recap: Denver Broncos 23, Minnesota Vikings 27


What you need to know

Denver Broncos

Denver took a 17-0 lead on Minnesota, but watched the Vikings mount a comeback as the Broncos offense could not find the end zone after two quick 1st quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Brandon Allen made some impressive throws on deep balls to Sutton and Tim Patrick, who had a solid day in his return from IR. Sutton topped 100 yards again and also got involved as a runner and a passer in the Wildcat, with a 38 yard connection to Patrick. RB Lindsay dominated the backfield touches but saw fullback Janovich vulture the easy touchdown run in the 1st quarter. Tight end Noah Fant drew a team-high 11 targets and even carried the ball on a couple of ineffective tight end sweeps. Denver drove down to the Minnesota red zone at the end of the game, but could not seal the game with a touchdown as Allen failed to connect on passes to Sutton, Patrick, and Fant in the end zone. Denver missed a field goal earlier in the 4th and QB Allen tossed an interception in the Minnesota red zone at the end of the 1st half. Fullback Janovich will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated elbow.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had no right to win this game after digging a 20-point hole at half time against the Broncos. The offense could not move the ball in the first half and the defense made countless mistakes and penalties that kept the chains moving for Denver. Bad penalties gave Denver a first down twice after the defense had made a stop on 3rd down and it almost happened a third time on a field goal attempt before the referees talked and picked up the flag. Denver completely bottled up the Vikings rushing attack and limited the entire team to 37 yards on 18 carries. Kirk Cousins must have figured something out at half time and looked like a completely different player in the second half. Long plays to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph put the Vikings ahead late in the 4th quarter and it was up to the defense to get a final stop. The Broncos drove all the way down to the Viking 4-yard line and had 3 shots at the end zone to win the game. The defense made 3 consecutive stops and the Vikings walked away with their 8th win of the season. Minnesota will head into their Bye week with a firm grasp on a wild card spot and have plenty of time to get Adam Thielen healthy. Their next game comes in 12/2 against Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Denver Broncos

QB Brandon Allen, 81 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 39 - 240 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 18 - 0
Allen tossed a few nice deep balls in this contest. He took some big shots off play action on the Broncos first drive, narrowly missing Sutton for a big gain and then connecting with Fant up the seam for 31 yards off of a fake to Lindsay. Allen connected with Sutton later in the 1st quarter with another beautiful play action pass, with Sutton making an amazing leaping grab between two defenders for a 48 yard gain. Allen took a shot for Sutton in the end zone on the next play, drawing a pass interference penalty that set Denver up on the goal line. Allen found backup tight end Fumagalli for a short touchdown on a stick route two plays later. Allen and Sutton hooked up again for 40+ on a deep ball down the middle late in the 4th quarter.

Allen returned a gift to the Vikings at the end of the 1st half. Minnesota fumbled a kickoff return, giving the Broncos the ball in the Viking red zone, but Allen threw a pick on the first snap of the drive, ending the first half of play. Allen and the offense drove down to the Minnesota red zone at the end of the 4th quarter, but were denied by a staunch effort from the Vikings defense. Allen tried but failed to connect with Fant twice and Patrick once in the end zone as time ran out. Allen added 18 yards on the ground with a few scrambles.

RB Phillip Lindsay, 52 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 67 - 0, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (2 targets)
Even with the game script going his way as the Broncos jumped out to an early lead, Lindsay did not rack up a big statistical day. He averaged a solid 4.2 YPC while out-touching Freeman 18-9. Freeman got first shot at a 1 yard touchdown plunge after Lindsay ran the ball down to the goal line late in the 1st, and fullback Janovich vultured the score after Freeman's first attempt failed. Lindsay couldn't break anything big, with a long run of 11 yards. He had a 16 yard run on the final drive of the game that was called back for a holding penalty on rookie tight end Fumagalli. Lindsay managed just a couple of short catches out of the backfield in the 2nd and 3rd quarter.

RB Royce Freeman, 24 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 31 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets)
Freeman started mixing in with Lindsay on Denver's third offensive drive of the game. Lindsay saw more work as he out-touched Freeman 18-9. Freeman was stuffed on a goal line carry from the 1 yard line late in the 1st quarter. Fullback Janovich vultured the score on the next play. Freeman's biggest play of the day was his lone target in the passing game, a wheel route out of the backfield late in the 4th quarter that picked up 14 yards on 3rd and 13.

RB Andy Janovich, 14 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 1, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)
Janovich vultured a 1 yard touchdown plunge after Phillip Lindsay was stopped at the 1 and Royce Freeman failed to punch it in on the next snap late in the 1st quarter. Janovich had a short reception in the 2nd quarter, but dislocated his elbow on the play. He will miss the rest of the season.

RB Devontae Booker, 5 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0 (2 targets)
Booker saw very limited work as the third back in the rotation. He logged one 4 yard carry and could not haul in either of his two targets.

WR Courtland Sutton, 72 offensive snaps, Pass: 1 - 1 - 38 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 10 - 0, Rec: 5 - 113 - 0 (9 targets)
Sutton and Allen showcased a growing rapport with a couple of 40+ yard connections. They narrowly missed a big connection when Allen overthrew him on a play action pass for the first offensive play of the game. The two connected later in the 1st quarter when Sutton made an amazing leaping grab over two defenders, good for a 48 yard gain on another play action from Allen. Sutton drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the next play, setting the Broncos up for an easy 1 yard touchdown pass to tight end Fumagalli. Sutton also burned the Vikings for a 43 yard gain right up the middle of the field in the 4th quarter, catching the ball between All-Pro safety Smith and CB Rhodes. Sutton got involved in the wildcat formation in the 1st half, taking an end around handoff from Lindsay and then throwing a beautiful 38 yard pass to Tim Patrick, who made a leaping catch over his defender. Sutton also rushed twice on end-around plays, including once inside the Minnesota red zone where he was stopped from scoring by a great tackling effort from safety Harrison Smith.

WR Tim Patrick, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 77 - 0 (8 targets)
Patrick returned from the IR to man the outside spot opposite Courtland Sutton. His first reception was actually thrown by Sutton on an end-around pass from a Wildcat formation. Patrick made a difficult leaping catch over his defender for a 38 yard gain. Patrick had another big gain of 29 yards on a deep ball down the left sideline in the 3rd quarter. Patrick made a clutch catch on a toughly contested crossing route to convert 4th down on Denver's final drive of the game. Allen took a shot at Patrick in the end zone on the next play, but couldn't put the ball in play. Patrick hauled in another short reception to move the chains on the drive, and Allen targeted him once more in the end zone, but could not connect as time ran out for the Broncos offense. Patrick finished the day with a career-high 8 targets.

TE Noah Fant, 70 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - -7 - 0, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 (11 targets)
Fant had an up and down day as he continues to showcase tough running after the catch. He got wide open up the seam on a play action pass from Allen early in the 1st quarter, gaining 31 yards on the play. Fant picked up another catch and run on an out route late in the 2nd quarter. Fant came up with a clutch 12 yard reception on a crossing route that converted 4th and 6 on Denver's final offensive drive of the game. Allen targeted Fant in the end zone on the final drive, but overthrew the tight end on the seam route. Denver tried not once but twice to get Fant going on an end-around sweep play, but the tight end got blown up behind the line of scrimmage on both plays. Fant drew a team-high 11 targets, including two looks in the end zone at the end of the game.

TE Troy Fumagalli, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 1 (3 targets)
Fumagalli worked as second tight end and scored his first NFL touchdown on his only target of the day. He ran a beautiful route, heading to the sideline on an out route before cutting back inside where Allen hit him with a laser for a short score in the 1st. Fumagalli had a costly holding penalty that nullified a 16 yard Phillip Lindsay run during the final drive of the game.


Minnesota Vikings

QB Kirk Cousins, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 29 - 35 - 319 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 1 - 0
It was a tale of 2 halves for Cousins this week. The first half was borderline embarrassing as the Vikings failed to put up a single point at home. Cousins flipped some sort of switch at half time and came out to throw 3 touchdowns and lead the Vikings to an improbable comeback against Denver. The first touchdown pass came on the opening drive of the second half. Cousins unloaded a 44-yard deep pass to Diggs to det the Vikings up at the 10-yard line. After another failed rushing attempt from Cook, Cousins found rookie Irv Smith for his first career touchdown in the back of the end zone. Cousins had a clean pocket and found Smith open in the seam with a step on his man and delivered the ball just before he went out of the back of the end zone. The second touchdown pass was a thing of beauty. Cousins unloaded a 54-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. It was a play action stretch play and the entire defense bit on the third and short play. Cousins rolled to his left and gave Diggs enough time to break free of his man deep down the middle of the field. The perfectly thrown ball hit Diggs in stride and let him walk into the end zone and brought the score to within 3. The final touchdown came after the Broncos missed a field goal and the Vikings drove the ball 67 yards for the go ahead score. Cousins found Rudolph all alone in the flat and the big tight end rumbled 32 yards down the sideline for the score. It was the exact same play as the Diggs touchdown and the defense again bit on the play action with Cousins rolling to his left. Cousins finished the day with more than 300 yards passing in what was essentially a half of football. All of Minnesota is relieved to have a Bye week so they can calm down after that game before taking on Seattle.

RB Dalvin Cook, 51 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 26 - 1, Rec: 5 - 31 - 0 (6 targets)
It was not a great game for Cook and the Viking rushing attack. Cook averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on 11 carries and only just salvaged his day with a touchdown in the second half. It was a 3-yard plunge off the right end and capped off an 18 play 70-yard drive. The Vikings elected to go for 2 on the play and called Cook’s number again. He tried to sweep it off the right end and was stopped short of the goal line as the attempt failed. Cook added 5 catches on 6 targets for another 31 yards. 21 of those yards came on a single screen play where he was able to weave through defenders and down the sideline for a big gain. The Broncos sold out to stop Cook and the run game this week and were content letting Cousins try and beat them. Cook deserves the rest heading into their Bye week and then has 2 great matchups against Seattle and Detroit in the following weeks.

RB Alexander Mattison, 4 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 5 - 0
The Broncos did not just do a good job against Cook, they also bottled up Mattison and anyone else who tried to run the ball this week. Mattison had just 3 carries and averaged 1.7 yards per carry and did not have a single target in the passing game this week. The Vikings were the only team in the NFL who had run the ball more than they passed it this year, but nothing was working on the ground and that spelled disaster for Mattison and his chances this week. With some easier matchups on the way, Mattison will look to get back on track against Seattle and Detroit after the Bye week.

WR Olabisi Johnson, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 35 - 0 (9 targets)
Johnson has been the biggest beneficiary of Thielen being hurt and was the 3rd leading receiver for the Vikings this week. He caught 6 of his 9 targets for 35 yards and has helped immensely for a team that lacks a true 3rd receiver. Johnson was the Vikings 7th round pick out of Colorado State and has filled the spot they had hope Laquon Treadwell was going to. His longest catch went for 9 yards this week and he should continue to see a role in the offense even when Thielen returns.

WR Stefon Diggs, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 121 - 1 (5 targets)
This was not a great matchup on paper as Diggs would be shadowed by Chris Harris this week. Harris has shut down some of the game’s best receivers this season and it looked to be no different for Diggs in the first half. Diggs really turned things on in the second half and had 2 big plays for the Vikings. His first was a 44-yard reception to help setup an Irv Smith touchdown. Diggs simply outran his coverage and Cousins floated a deep ball right over his shoulder for the big play. It was the closing speed and a diving tackle by the defender as the only things that prevented a touchdown. The second big play was his 54-yard touchdown catch to bring the Vikings within 3 points. It was a play action stretch play with Cousins rolling to his left. The defense had bit on the play action and Cousins had time to let the play develop and for Diggs to come open deep down the middle of the field. He let loose another deep pass and split the safeties allowing Diggs to walk into the end zone. By the time the game was over, Diggs had caught all 5 of his targets for more than 100 yards and a touchdown.

WR Adam Thielen
Thielen did not practice at all this week and it was almost a guarantee he was not going to play against the Broncos with his hamstring injury. The Vikings were about to head into their Bye week and a week off here would have allowed Thielen to rest all the way until 12/2 and the Vikings Monday Night Football game against Seattle. The Vikings have a tough stretch to close out the season and need a healthy Thielen to make the playoff push.

TE Kyle Rudolph, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 67 - 1 (5 targets)
Something seems to have a lit a fire under Rudolph in the past few weeks as he now has touchdowns in 4 out of his last 5 games. The big tight end caught all 5 of his targets this week and was the Vikings 2nd leading receiver behind Diggs. He had no catch bigger than the go ahead 32-yard touchdown late in the 4th quarter. It was the same play that Diggs had scored a 54-yard touchdown on the previous drive. Cousins faked the stretch play to Cook and rolled to his left. The defender on Rudolph crashed to the rolling Cousins to make sure he did not run for a first down and it left Rudolph open in the flat all by himself. It was an easy catch for a first down and turned into a long touchdown run when Rudolph realized the entire defense had committed to the run on the other side of the field. It has been a great stretch for Rudolph as he is making a case for the Vikings to involve both tight ends in the offense heavily.

TE Irv Smith, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 20 - 1 (3 targets)
After closing ground and taking playing time away from Rudolph, Smith finally made good and caught his first touchdown of his young career. He has watched Rudolph score 5 touchdowns in their last 5 games and wanted to get in on the action. It was the Vikings first touchdown of the game and was a nicely thrown ball by Cousins to Smith who had a step on his man in the seam. The ball was delivered just before Smith went out the back of the end zone and set off the first 20-point deficit at half time come back in the last 99 such games in the NFL. Smith finished the day catching all 3 of his targets and had his longest catch go for 10 yards. The rookie tight end should play a big role in the offense the rest of the season and be the tight end of the future for the Vikings.