Sunday's NFL: Vikings overcome 20-point halftime deficit to stun Broncos
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 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,” 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 Sunday.
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.
“We can’t count ourselves out. We had 30 minutes of football. Was it going to take perfect football? Most likely,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “But all we can go out there and do is worry about the first drive, and getting points, and see what happens.”
Cousins went 29-for-35 passing 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.
“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 total 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 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 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. According to Sportradar, this was only the 14th time in NFL history that a 20-plus-point halftime deficit turned into defeat.
“Didn’t sustain any drives,” Allen said, “and that put our defense in a bad spot.”
(At) Baltimore 41, Houston 7: Lamar Jackson threw four touchdown passes, ran for 86 yards and helped Baltimore roll to its sixth straight victory, over Houston.
The game was billed as a matchup between first-place AFC teams and two of the best double-threat quarterbacks in the NFL.
Jackson and the Baltimore defense made it a one-sided affair, and the Ravens (8-2) are riding their longest winning streak since a seven-game run in 2000, their first Super Bowl season.
After throwing three touchdown passes to put Baltimore up 21-0 in the third quarter, Jackson followed with his most impressive play of the day: a 39-yard run in which he broke six tackles, weaving through the Houston secondary as if playing keep-away with the football.
Deshaun Watson, on the other hand, spent the entire afternoon running from a defense that utilized a variety of blitzes and coverages. Baltimore rang up seven sacks — six against Watson — forced two turnovers and limited the nimble-footed quarterback to 12 yards rushing on three carries.
Watson went 18 for 29 for 169 yards with a lost fumble and an interception for the Texans (6-4). Houston fell behind 34-0 before Carlos Hyde ran for a 41-yard touchdown with 7:10 remaining.
New England 17, (at) Philadelphia 10: Julian Edelman threw a go-ahead 15-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett and New England rallied for a victory over Philadelphia.
Tom Brady threw for 216 yards, leading New England (9-1) back from a 10-0 deficit, but it was Edelman, the Patriots’ wide receiver, who found a target in the end zone. The Pats defense sacked Carson Wentz five times and forced one turnover.
Wentz couldn’t get much going without his two best receivers and top running back sidelined by injuries. Nelson Agholor couldn’t make a twisting catch on Wentz’s fourth-down heave into the end zone from the Patriots 26 with just under a minute left.
The Eagles (5-5) got the ball back and advanced to their 42 but Wentz’s desperation pass fell incomplete.
This was nothing like the thrilling matchup between the two teams in Super Bowl 52. Nick Foles led the Eagles to a 41-33 victory over the Patriots to capture the franchise’s first NFL title since 1960. The teams set or tied 29 Super Bowl records, including most yards in any game (1,151) in league history.
(At) San Francisco 36, Arizona 26: Jimmy Garoppolo threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Wilson Jr. with 31 seconds left for his fourth TD pass of the game and San Francisco rallied for a victory over Arizona.
Garoppolo connected with Wilson over the middle for the go-ahead score one play after the Niners (9-1) narrowly converted on a third-and-3 pass that went to replay review.
Instead of being ruled short and having to decide whether to kick a tying field goal or go for it on fourth down, San Francisco had a new set of downs and took advantage on Wilson’s first career touchdown catch.
David Johnson fumbled on the next play for the Cardinals (3-7-1), who squandered a 16-0 lead and lost their fourth straight game. San Francisco added a fumble recovery for a touchdown by D.J. Reed on the final play after a botched lateral by Arizona.
This marked the biggest deficit erased by the 49ers in a win since rallying from 20 points down to beat Philadelphia on Oct. 2, 2011. San Francisco also overcame a 17-point deficit in the NFC title game at Atlanta following the 2012 season.
Garoppolo threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions deep in Arizona territory that nearly doomed the 49ers. The first set up a field goal that put Arizona up 19-17 and the second came with San Francisco trailing by three late in the fourth quarter.
(At) L.A. Rams 17, Chicago 7: Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown ran for touchdowns and Los Angeles was able to ground out a victory over Chicago.
Gurley tied a season high with 97 yards on 25 carries, scoring on a 1-yard carry up the middle with 3:28 remaining in the first half to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 10-0.
After Tarik Cohen’s third-quarter touchdown catch brought Chicago to 10-7, the Rams (6-4) put it out of reach with 3:35 remaining in the fourth quarter on Brown’s 5-yard run.
Jared Goff was 11 of 18 for 173 yards and an interception. That is the least attempts the fourth-year quarterback has had when he has started. Cooper Kupp was the Rams’ only active starting receiver, which might explain why the Rams relied more on their ground game.
The Bears (4-6) ran 22 more plays than the Rams but averaged only 3.6 yards. Mitchell Trubisky was 24 of 43 for 190 yards with a touchdown and interception. Chase Daniel replaced Trubisky for the final series.
New Orleans 34, (at) Tampa Bay 17: Drew Brees threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns to lead New Orleans over Tampa Bay.
The NFC South leaders (8-2) rebounded from a 26-9 loss to struggling Atlanta, with NFL receptions leader Michael Thomas becoming the first player in league history with 90-plus catches in the first 10 games of a season and Brees tossing TD passes of 16 yards to Thomas, 3 yards to Jared Cook and 6 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. after being held out of the end zone by the Falcons.
Safety Marcus Williams put an exclamation point on a strong defensive performance, returning the third of New Orleans’ four interceptions 55 yards for a touchdown that put the Saints up 34-17 with just over five minutes remaining.
Thomas had eight receptions for 114 yards, boosting his season totals to 94 catches for 1,141 yards. Alvin Kamara rushed for 73 yards on 13 attempts and had 10 receptions for 47 yards against a Tampa Bay defense ranked No. 1 against the run but last against the pass.
A battered Jameis Winston completed 30 of 51 passes for 313 yards and two TDs for the Bucs (3-7), who have lost five of six following a 2-2 start.
(At) Indianapolis 33, Jacksonville 13: Jacoby Brissett threw one touchdown pass, ran for another score and used an impressive ground game to get Indianapolis back on track with a victory over Jacksonville.
The Colts (6-4) ended a two-game losing streak and pulled back into a tie with Houston for the AFC South lead.
Jacksonville (4-6) has lost four of six, this one coming despite the return of starting quarterback Nick Foles. He had missed the previous eight games with a broken left collarbone.
And the Colts made it look easy with their tag-team ground game.
Marlon Mack carried 14 times for 109 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the third quarter with a hand injury. His replacement, Jonathan Williams, had 13 carries for 106 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career, and celebrated two long, fourth-quarter runs by giving himself up inbounds to keep the clock running. Nyheim Hines scored on a 7-yard run and Brissett scored on a 5-yard run.
It was the first time Indy had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since Oct. 6, 1985, and only the third time in franchise history — all against the Jags’ usually stingy defense.
Buffalo 37, (at) Miami 20: Josh Allen tied a career high with three touchdown passes and ran for another score to help the Buffalo complete a season sweep of Miami.
Allen’s TD tosses covered 40 and 9 yards to John Brown, and 23 yards to Dawson Knox. Allen also scored on an 8-yard run, and he had a 36-yard run to set up a field goal.
Miami couldn’t keep up against Buffalo’s smothering defense. The Bills totaled a season-high seven sacks and allowed only 23 yards rushing.
The victory gave the Bills (7-3) their best 10-game record since 1999, but they won for only the second time in the past four games.
Miami (2-8) lost to Buffalo for the fourth time in the past five meetings.
Allen went 21-for-33 passing for 256 yards without a sack or turnover, and his passer rating of 117.7 was a career high. He extended his streak of passes without an interception to 163.
Brown finished with nine receptions for 137 yards, both season highs. The Bills netted a season-best 424 yards, and their point total was also a season high.
Atlanta 29, (at) Carolina 3: Atlanta intercepted Kyle Allen four times and sacked him five times, Kenjon Barner returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown and the Falcons defeated Carolina for their second straight lopsided win against an NFC South foe.
The Falcons (3-7) had only two interceptions all season — and none since Week 2 against the Eagles — but intercepted Allen three times in the first half to build a 20-0 lead.
Matt Ryan improved to 7-1 in his past eight starts against the Panthers, throwing for 311 yards including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley.
Ridley found huge holes in the Carolina defense, finishing with eight catches for 143 yards and rookie Qadree Ollison added a 2-yard TD run for the Falcons, who won despite playing without running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper.
It was the second straight dominant defensive performance for the Falcons, who defeated the Saints 26-9 last Sunday.
Allen struggled all day for Carolina (5-5), continuing a disturbing trend. The second-year quarterback has thrown eight interceptions in the past four games. Christian McCaffrey finished with 191 yards from scrimmage for the Panthers but failed to score for the first time since Week 2.
(At) Oakland 17, Cincinnati 10: Derek Carr passed for 292 yards and a touchdown, Josh Jacobs had his fourth 100-yard game in the past six weeks, and Oakland beat winless Cincinnati.
Maxx Crosby had a team rookie-record four sacks as the Raiders harassed Bengals rookie quarterback Ryan Finley and shut down Cincinnati’s offense after Joe Mixon had given it a lift in the first half.
Oakland (6-4) won its third straight to move into a first-place tie with Kansas City in the AFC West. The Chiefs play the Chargers on Monday night in Mexico City.
Cincinnati is headed in the opposite direction. The Bengals are the NFL’s lone team without a victory, and their 0-10 record matches the 1993 team for the worst start in franchise history.
Even when things appeared to be going well for Zac Taylor’s team, something went wrong.
With Cincinnati trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate made a 20-yard catch on a third-and-19 play but suffered a neck injury when he was hit from behind by Curtis Riley. Tate stayed down for several minutes and was eventually placed on a cart and taken to the locker room.