1. Cook had only 13 yards after ‘first-guy misses’
It wasn’t the ideal approach, but the Vikings found out they can fall behind 20-0 and still win a game without Dalvin Cook producing like the best back in football. The reigning NFC offensive player of the week, who had 183 yards on 33 touches in last week’s 28-24 victory at Dallas, was held to 57 yards on 16 touches in Sunday’s 27-23 win over Denver. According to this press box observer, Cook, the master of making the first guy miss, had only three plays in which he was able to do just that. And Cook gained only 13 yards after a first defender missed. Seven of those came on Cook’s first two touches, both runs. The other six came on a 9-yard reception. “I told the team all week [Denver] was a good football team,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Hopefully, they listen next time.”
2. Purple pressure missing on Allen
The main reason the Vikings were 10-point favorites? Easy. Broncos quarterback Brandon Allen was making his first NFL road start and second start overall in a loud venue against a Zimmer defense known for using the crowd noise to crank up its blitz packages. Denver had a good plan though, slowing the rush with quick throws, a sound running game and an outstanding receiver, Courtland Sutton, who forced the Vikings to resort to double coverage. According to this observer, Allen was pressured 14 times on 43 dropbacks. He was sacked twice and escaped once for a 5-yard run. The Vikings sparingly used their vaunted blitz packages. Facing four-man rushes, Allen completed passes of 48 and 43 yards to Sutton and 31 yards to Noah Fant. Sutton also completed a 38-yard pass to Tim Patrick, who had been on injured reserve since Week 2.
3. Wilson committed the worst of Vikings’ multiple ‘boneheaded’ plays
Eric Wilson is a classic overachiever who forced his way into this league as an undrafted, undersized linebacker who excels at special teams. Sunday wasn’t his finest moment. The Vikings trailed 20-7 after opening the third quarter with a touchdown. The defense then forced what should have been a three-and-out. But Wilson jumped offsides on fourth-and-3. With new life, Denver ran another eight plays over five minutes en route to a field goal. Wilson recovered a muffed punt by Mike Hughes later. Overall the special teams were, as Zimmer said, “not very good.” “We had a lot of bonehead plays today,” Zimmer said. One of the Vikings’ two lost fumbles came on a kick return by Ameer Abdullah right before halftime. “No. 1, we weren’t supposed [to bring the ball out of the end zone],” Zimmer said of Abdullah’s decision from 3 yards deep.
4. Hurry-up works on Cousins sneak
Six plays into the second half, the Vikings already were in a desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures moment. Cook had just been stuffed on third-and-1 from the Vikings’ 45-yard line. From the outside, it felt like a punt in that situation would be a spine-snapping turn of events. The Vikings’ brain trust must have felt the same way. There was no hesitation. The offense hurried to the line of scrimmage. And before the Broncos were even set, quarterback Kirk Cousins basically goosed center Garrett Bradbury’s backside. The hurry-up sneak gained the 1 yard necessary to keep alive a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that set the tone for the second half. The Vikings went no-huddle on the entire drive. “We had to try and tire [Denver] down a little bit,” Zimmer said. “We were so lethargic in the first half. Things weren’t going out way. We had to speed it up.”
5. Waynes reads, reacts and tackles
Trae Waynes tackles as well as he dislikes the media. And that’s saying something, bub. The cornerback’s ability to read, react and make an old-fashioned, two-arm, wrap-him-up tackle came in quite handy on a call the Broncos made on third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had just scored to make it a 10-point game. Denver needed a first down at its 34 to keep from going three-and-out. The Broncos had been having success with misdirection end arounds and gadget-type plays. One of them was Sutton’s 38-yard pass to Patrick. Denver called for tight end Noah Fant to start on the left side and take a handoff around right end. Waynes saw it the whole way and dropped Fant for a 5-yard loss. According to Pro Football Focus, Waynes is the best run defender among the Vikings’ starters in the secondary. He showed it on that play.