DENVER – The Denver Broncos set an NFL record by being the first 3-0 team to not rush for at least 70 yards in a game. Backup running back Ronnie Hillman took care of that streak with one toss sweep in the second quarter of Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Vikings at Mile High Stadium.
With Denver leading 3-0 following Blair Walsh’s missed 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter, Hillman took a simple toss to the left, turned the corner and was gone down the left sideline. One play, 72 yards and a 10-0 lead.
“The long run was a bad call on my part,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Some of the other runs, we didn’t play well against.”
The key block on the play came when left tackle Ryan Harris, a Cretin-Derham Hall grad, pulled and cut linebacker Chad Greenway to the ground. The Broncos had the edge blocked well, but it didn’t help that the deep safety, Robert Blanton, took a poor angle and was out of position when Hillman got squared up near the sideline.
Hillman had 103 yards on 11 carries, while C.J. Anderson had 43 yards, including a 13-yarder into game-winning field goal range.
“Me and C.J. got tired of everyone trying to tell us that we can’t run the ball,” Hillman said. “It was our time.”
Diggs breaks out, but …
Rookie Stefon Diggs, the star of the preseason, was active for the first time in his career. He was targeted 10 times, catching six passes for a team-high 87 yards.
He had a 25-yarder on third-and-6 early in the second quarter and another 25-yarder to set up a field goal late in the first half. He also fumbled twice, but recovered both of them.
“He did like I expected him to do,” Zimmer said. “He put the ball on the ground twice, which you can’t do. He continues to learn.”
Diggs knows the fumbles weigh as heavily as the catches he made.
“Ball security is the most important thing,” he said. “I just have to keep working at that.”
Rhodes’ rough series
Xavier Rhodes had a rough second half with three penalties and a 43-yard completion surrendered to Emmanuel Sanders.
Two of the penalties — a 14-yard pass interference covering Demaryius Thomas and a 4-yard horse collar tackle inside the 10-yard line — and the 43-yarder came on Denver’s opening drive of the second half.
“I was really quiet in the first half,” said Sanders, who had all three of his catches for 68 yards in the second half. “But [coach Gary] Kubiak walked up to me and told me he was going to get the ball in my hands.”
Rhodes’ other penalty was a 5-yard pass interference on a second-down incompletion during the game-winning drive.
Walsh still under fire
Walsh made two of his three field-goal attempts Sunday and has made six of eight on the season. But he hooked a 38-yarder in the first half of a game the Vikings lost by three.
“I wasn’t as under control as I wanted to be,” Walsh said of his missed kick. “My tentativeness has been the relative theme recently. So I attacked it a little too hard and wasn’t under control.”
Walsh realized his miss will only fuel the negativity.
“I know I’m trying to draw on the positives here, but [I’ve made] 10 of 12 in the last 12 kicks in the regular season,” Walsh said.
“I know people want to make a big deal out of the preseason [five of 11], but the way I look at it, that’s gone. It doesn’t matter.
“I’m not oblivious to what’s going on. I’m just not panicking.”
Broncos add wrinkle
The Vikings weren’t expecting the Broncos to add safety T.J. Ward to their already-wicked pass rush. But that’s what happened. Seven players had at least half a sack, led by Ward, who had two.
“Some stuff they did, mostly in the first quarter, got us mixed up,” left tackle Matt Kalil said. “But I think we did all right for the most part after we settled down a bit.”
Ward had the first and last sack. The Broncos used him to overload the left side of the Vikings’ offensive line on the first sack. On the last sack, they moved him over to the right side.
The Broncos would have had eight sacks, but a holding call on cornerback Aqib Talib negated what would have been a sack on third down.
Wright active, limited
Receiver Jarius Wright (hand), who was listed as questionable before the game, played sparingly late in the game and wasn’t targeted. Linebacker Audie Cole (ankle) also was listed as questionable, but played on special teams.
Inactive for the Vikings: Taylor Heinicke, Edmond Robinson, Chase Ford and injured players Justin Trattou (foot), Andrew Sendejo (knee), Charles Johnson (rib) and Jabari Price (shoulder).
Adam Thielen was announced as a starter for Johnson at receiver, but Cordarrelle Patterson actually got the start because the first play was a multiple tight end formation.
• Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks’ first NFL sack came against Peyton Manning on third down at his own 2-yard line.
• The Vikings reported no new injuries.