The Broncos host the Browns next week while the Vikings host the Bears on Monday Night Football.
Broncos vs. Vikings score, takeaways: Russell Wilson strikes late as surging Denver cools off Joshua Dobbs
Wilson and the Broncos offense found the end zone only once, but it was good enough for a win
The Denver Broncos offense was stuck in the mud all night long, failing to move the football on third down (2-for-12) and in the red zone (1-for-5), but when they needed their first and only touchdown the most, quarterback Russell Wilson came through with a 15-yard TD to receiver Courtland Sutton with 1:03 to go for a 21-20 victory. Sutton's receiving touchdown streak was extended to five games, tying him for the third-longest such streak in team history. They ended up winning the turnover battle three to nothing, but had to settle for five field goals over the course of night until the final game-winning drive. Their defense halted the Vikings in their tracks on fourth-and-25 from their own 21 with 23 seconds left, forcing a Joshua Dobbs incompletion over the middle to seal the victory.
Wilson's 38 game-winning drives and 30 fourth-quarter comebacks are both tied for the most in the league since 2012, the span of Wilson's career, with Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
With the victory, Denver now has reeled off four wins in a row to get back into the AFC playoff race. It's the team's first four-game winning streak since 2016, the first season following their Super Bowl 50 victory. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's defense has made an unfathomable turnaround in 2023, allowing 17 points per game since Week 7 during their winning streak, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the fewest in the league. That's as stark a contrast as it gets from Weeks 1-6 when they allowed an NFL-worst 33.3 points per game, including 70 in Week 3 road loss at the Miami Dolphins. Their 68 points allowed since Week 7 is two points fewer than those 70 points they surrendered in Week 3.
The Vikings literally gave this game away. They lost the turnover battle 3-0 and played a conservative zone defense for much of the night.
Dobbs, by finishing with 221 passing yards, one passing touchdown, one interception and a fumble lost on 20-for-32 passing while rushing for 21 yards and touchdown -- on a 10-yard scramble -- on eight carries, became the first player in NFL history with a passing and rushing scores in each of his first three games with a team in NFL history. It's the second time this season accomplishing this feat as he did so in Weeks 1-3 with the Arizona Cardinals, his first three games with them as well.
Dobbs briefly exited the game and had to be checked out in the medical tent after being clobbered and losing a fumble on the opening drive, but he came back in and dominated the rest of the half, completing 11 of 13 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown to tight end Josh Oliver, which came on a scramble deep in the low red zone in which he shook off a defender, rose back up to throw and cleanly hit Oliver for the score.
After a 10-yard scrambling touchdown on on third-and-8 from the Broncos 10 in their first possession of the second half, Minnesota was out their largest lead of the night, eight points (17-9).
Another Vikings lost fumble, this time by running back Alexander Mattison, on first-and-10 from the Denver 34 last in the third quarter prevented Minnesota from pulling ahead by two possessions. Nine plays later, the Broncos had to settle for another field goal, this time from 37 yards, after quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked for a three-yard loss on the Vikings 19 on third-and-five by Minnesota linebacker D.J. Wonnum. That drive trimmed the Minnesota lead to five, 17-12 with 12:44 left in the game. Wilson finished with 259 passing yards and a touchdown on an efficient 27-of-35 passing.
The Vikings committed a third turnover on their next possession with Dobbs tossing an interception, but once again the Broncos couldn't capitalize despite starting the possession with first-and-goal at the nine. Denver wide receiver Jerry Jeudy found himself open in the middle of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 10, but he dropped Wilson's pass that hit him right in the hands. That led to Lutz's fifth made field goal of the game, putting the host Broncos within two, 17-15, with 10:40 left in the game.
Having committed turnovers (an interception and a lost fumble) on their two drives following Dobbs' rushing score, Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell pulled a trick play out his bag. Minnesota snapping the football to the upback, running back Ty Chandler, on their own 31 on fourth-and-four, and he picked up 31 yards for a massive first down. Chandler also came up with perhaps the key play of the game, taking a third-and-20 checkdown pass from Dobbs to the Broncos 26 with just under seven minutes left to play. Dobbs converted the quarterback sneak on a sneak play. Their 14-play drive concluded with a 30-yard kick from Greg Joseph to put them up five, 20-15, forcing the Broncos to do what they hadn't been able to do all game in order to win, score a touchdown. They did it and earned the victory.
Why the Broncos won
Wilson made the key plays Denver needed all night long on the final drive, and head coach Sean Payton taking the points with five field goals ended up being the smart move as each one was critical in their one-point victory. The Broncos turnaround to 5-5 is one of the most miraculous storylines of the 2023 season.
Why the Vikings lost
It's incredibly difficult to win when turning the ball over three times and not forcing any. Those gaffes forced their defense to be perfect, and they nearly were. Close enough wasn't simply didn't cut it for Minnesota on Sunday night.
Turning point/play of the game
There is only one play this could be: Wilson's 15-yard scoring strike to Sutton. The offensive was anemic for about 59 minutes, but this play with just over one minute to play erased all of their woes.
The 6-5 Vikings take on the 3-8 Bears at home in Week 12 on "Monday Night Football." The 5-5 Broncos play host to the 7-3 Browns, who won 13-10 with fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback against the Steelers in Week 11.
That'll do it. Broncos win their fourth in a row to improve to 5-5 and jump back into the playoff picture. Vikings fall to 6-5 and move further back in the NFC.
That's gonna be intentional grounding even if it's not a fumble. So the Vikings will have to take their final timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff. So they will have to convert fourth-and-forever and then get up to spike the ball, all in 21 seconds.
Dobbs needs to get some more oomph on these throws to the wide side of the field. He's giving the DB too much time to close on the receiver and force an incomplete pass.
Great play by Baron Browning to bring Dobbs down short of the line to gain. Sets up a fourth down for the game right here.
Samaje Perine has been wide open leaking out of the backfield this entire drive. Nobody anywhere near him.
Oh man... Ivan Pace nearly had a game-sealing forced fumble AND recovery. The ball just hit the out of bounds line before he grabbed it.
The Broncos are moving closer to scoring range. Plenty of time remaining as well.
HOLY COURTLAND SUTTON!!!!
So the Broncos are going to get a chance to make a game-winning drive here. Down 5 points and they'll have a little more than 3 minutes to move downfield. They haven't scored a touchdown yet, but need one to come away with the win.
Great blitz pickup by Mattison right there. He had to come across the formation to do it and got there just in time, and Dobbs was able to find Hockenson over the middle.
What an enormous third-down conversion for the Vikings. Ty Chandler was wide the heck open in the flat with nobody near him, and he used his 4.38 speed to pick it up. (Pending review. It looks like he may be just short.)
Woah! Fake punt for the HUGE gain by Ty Chandler!
Almost yet another turnover for the Vikings but instead it's just a three-and-out. If Dobbs had led Addison a bit more, that would have been a first down.
Russ got absolutely POPPED as he delivered that throw, but it hit Jerry Jeudy in the hands. And Jeudy dropped it while being grabbed by JoeJuan Williams. Broncos kick ANOTHER field goal and now it's a 17-15 game.
Well, the Vikings were supposedly making it a point of emphasis to not turn the ball over tonight. They have now turned it over three times. These last two are on their two running backs: Mattison fumbled, and Chandler just got run over in pass protection.
Russ was looking to bail on that pocket way too quickly, and he ran right into DJ Wonnum for the sack. He could have just continued stepping up and either found a man or tried to run for the first down. Instead he tried to escape out wide and got taken down immediately.
The Broncos are now making a concerted effort to quickly get the ball to the perimeter to counter-act all the blitzes the Vikings are bringing. Good change-up.
Easily the best run of the night for Javonte Williams. He only had 21 yards prior to that carry.
Well that is quite a turn of events. Mattison is having one of his best rushing games of the year, but just ran into a teammate and fumbled the ball. He had major fumble issues earlier in the season after fumbling just twice in his first four seasons.
Nice throw up the seam from Dobbs to Oliver. The Broncos just turned him loose there. Easy pitch and catch.
I think/hope Russ was just throwing that away.