The last time the Vikings played the Broncos four years ago, edge defender Von Miller recovered a fumble to seal a Vikings loss at Mile High Stadium. Miller is just one of three starting Broncos defenders left from that Super Bowl defense, which still has the attention of Vikings coaches and players ahead of Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Broncos' fourth-ranked defense is allowing 310 yards per game, and they've found a groove recently under first-year head coach Vic Fangio; Denver has surrendered 287 yards per game in the last five weeks with Miller, the All-Pro pass rusher, leading the way.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph is among the members of Sunday's block-by-committee approach against Miller.
"He's one of the best players in this league, not just one of the best pass rushers," Rudolph said. "You have to know where he is on every play, but thankfully I've had 10 games to get ready for it and have had my fair share of blocking. I definitely feel more equipped than four years ago when we played them."
Vikings coaches and players are even more familiar with the Broncos' scheme under Fangio, who coached the Bears defense for the last four seasons. Coordinator Kevin Stefanski said the Vikings probably can't count on many missed assignments or coverage busts.
"You're not going to see many mistakes," Stefanski said. "They do a lot — multiple fronts, multiple coverages, but they all complement each other. It's an outstanding scheme, one we've seen a bunch of times in our days going against coach [Fangio] in Chicago."
Four Vikings sidelined
Right guard Josh Kline remains in the concussion protocol after suffering his second brain injury within seven weeks this season. Kline, knocked out of Sunday's win in Dallas, had previously passed through the NFL's five-step protocol after taking a knee to the helmet Sept. 22 against the Raiders. He missed the following game in Chicago and is unlikely to play Sunday against the Broncos.
Guard Dakota Dozier is set to make his fourth start this season.
Safety Anthony Harris (groin), receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (knee) were also sidelined during Thursday's practice. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who sat out Wednesday's practice due to a knee injury, was back Thursday.
O-line depth shuffled
Injuries have so far derailed tackle Aviante Collins' NFL career, but he's on the Vikings' active roster for the third season having played in just three games. Collins, 26, overcame his latest obstacle, a knee injury in training camp, and was promoted Thursday from the practice squad after center Brett Jones was placed on injured reserve after injuring a knee ligament in practice, according to a league source.
"Sometimes blessings come with bad things," Collins said. "Losing Jones, I know what he's going through right now because I had a similar knee injury. We'll be here to support him."
Two re-signings — receiver Davion Davis and center John Keenoy — filled out the Vikings' 10-man practice squad.
Defensive end Danielle Hunter was named the Vikings' nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. Each NFL team nominates one player for the award, which recognizes players who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field. The Vikings have nominated a defender in all six years of the Art Rooney Award, including back-to-back years for Hunter.
Eight finalists will be named on Dec. 13. Current players will vote on a winner to be awarded $25,000 for a charity of his choice.