MINNEAPOLIS—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 offence 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,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said.
The Vikings 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 yesterday.
This was the first time in five years—a span of 100 games including the playoffs—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.
Cousins went 29 for 35 for 319 yards and three scores for the Vikings (8-3), overcoming a system-wide failure in the first half that included a lost fumble of his during a sack that led to one of three field goals by Brandon McManus for the Broncos (3-7).
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 6:10 left.
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 total yards in the first half, the Vikings turned to their hurry-up offence with enviable results.
Brandon Allen, the fill-in quarterback after the 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 4, 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 try for Noah Fant sailed past the rookie tight end after he and Kearse tussled for position.
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.
According to Sportradar, this was only the 14th time in NFL history that a 20-plus-point halftime lead turned into defeat.
The Vikings punted on their first four possessions and already trailed 10-0 when they finally got a first down.
With the deficit at 17-0, Cousins hit Diggs for a 34-yard gain that was wiped out by a holding penalty on left tackle Riley Reiff, who had a particularly difficult time against the pass rush.
One break went Minnesota's way, an ominous end to Denver's momentum. The kickoff after the field goal that followed the fumble by Cousins was fumbled and lost by Ameer Abdullah at the 17 by Josey Jewell with 60 seconds left.
Allen's pass for Fant on the next play was intercepted by Andrew Sendejo, preventing the Broncos from taking a four-score lead.
In other NFL action yesterday, Baltimore routed Houston 41-7; Atlanta dispatched Carolina 29-3; Dallas topped Detroit 35-27; Indianapolis thumped Jacksonville 33-13; Buffalo downed Miami 37-20; New Orleans defeated Tampa Bay 34-17; the N.Y. Jets took down Washington 34-17; San Francisco clipped Arizona 36-26; Oakland shaded Cincinnati 17-10; New England grounded Philadelphia 17-10; and L.A. bucked Chicago 17-7.