Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Halftime: Browns shocking Vikings 24-17

Posted by: Mark Craig under AFC Updated: September 22, 2013 - 1:48 PM

Yeah, so much for thinking the Cleveland Browns were tanking the season. The front office might have tried, but the coaches and players are in the process of upsetting the Vikings at the Metrodome.

If you're the Vikings, suddenly you know how Apollo Creed felt in Rocky I. The Browns our outplaying and outcoaching the Vikings. By a wide margin.

Score: Browns 24-17

The Good: The Vikings took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards en route to Adrian Peterson's pile-driving 2-yard touchdown run. The Vikings converted 3 of 3 third downs on the drive and it looked like the laugher we all expected was on. Especially after the Browns went three-and-out on their next possession. Heck, Christian Ponder even threw a 20-yard pass to Jarius Wright on third-and-five on the opening drive.

The Bad: The Vikings pass coverage suffered a blow when Chris Cook left in the first quarter with a groin injury. That put A.J. Jefferson on the field at right corner. Not good. Jefferson bit on a stop-and-go fake from Josh Gordon, who blew past Jefferson for a 47-yard touchdown to make it a 7-7 game. Gordon has four catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jordan Cameron has three catches, two of them touchdowns.

The Ugly: You can tell the Browns coaching staff didn't like this week's national storyline that the Browns were tanking the season. The Browns are going for broke on every call they make. They've executed a 37-yard fake field goal and an 11-yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal. Holder Spencer Lanning simply stood up and threw right to Cameron for the touchdown before Jamarca Sanford could get over to cover. ... Ponder threw an interception into triple coverage and lost a fumble on a sack on the last play of the game. The Vikings were at the Browns' 10 at the time. ... And, finally, the coaching staff got flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing a challenge flag it wasn't permitted to throw when the Browns muffed a punt. There's some question as to whether the Vikings should have just lost a timeout rather than being penalized. The change in field position made the Vikings have to settle for a field goal.

What we learned: The Browns are a dangerous team when the world accuses them of tanking a season. Brian Hoyer also is a playmaker, at least in through two quarters of his second NFL start. He's made some outstanding throws and is outplaying Ponder.

What needs to happen in the second half: The Vikings pass rush needs to show up. Hoyer is getting too much time to throw.

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