The Vikings hadn’t allowed a 100-yard receiver at U.S. Bank Stadium until the 26th regular-season game there, when Raiders tight end Darren Waller crossed the century mark in garbage time of a 34-14 Vikings victory on Sept. 22.
Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton had 113 yards Sunday — making him the second opponent to top 100 receiving yards in the Vikings’ building — and those yards were a little more nerve-racking for coach Mike Zimmer during Sunday’s 27-23 victory against Denver.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was assigned to shadow Sutton, whose grabs of 48 and 43 yards were the Broncos’ two biggest plays of the game.
“Sutton was killing us,” Zimmer said, “so we had to double him. When you’re doubling him, we weren’t rushing as many guys.”
The Vikings had only two sacks of Broncos quarterback Brandon Allen, making his second NFL start, as they blitzed fewer players and used more in coverage.
Sutton still left three Vikings defensive backs trailing, including Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith, on a 43-yard grab in the fourth quarter. Sutton even pulled up on a reverse and threw a 38-yard pass to receiver Tim Patrick.
“They were doing some weird, unorthodox things,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “We have to play better, but our fight is there, our heart is there.”
Kendricks ties mark
Kendricks’ leaping deflection on a short pass intended for Broncos running back Devontae Booker was his 12th pass defended of the season, tying the Vikings franchise record for a linebacker held by Ben Leber and Matt Blair.
Kendricks, leading the Vikings in tackles for the fifth time in his fifth NFL season, has five more games to set the record.
From the center of the Vikings’ pass defense, Kendricks said he preached one message as defenders tried to get the stop during the closing seconds of Sunday’s victory.
“Hold on,” Kendricks said. “Know what your job is and beat your man.”
Safety Andrew Sendejo made his first Vikings start in 13 months. He filled in for Anthony Harris, who suffered a strained groin in practice last week. But the Vikings deployed a rotation at safety, which eventually left only Sendejo and Jayron Kearse after Smith tweaked a hamstring and exited in the fourth quarter.
The severity of Smith’s injury is unknown, but he remained on the sideline during the game and walked around the locker room afterward without assistance. Sendejo, claimed off waivers earlier this month from the Eagles, led the Vikings with seven combined tackles and an interception.
Late timeout explained
Some Vikings defenders looked in bewilderment toward their own sideline when Zimmer called a timeout with 10 seconds left and the Broncos scrambling to line up near the goal line. Leading 27-23, Zimmer said he wanted his own defense settled rather than risk being disorganized because of a hurried snap.
“I was trying to see what they were going to be in,” Zimmer said. “I didn’t feel like we were lined up correctly, that’s why I called the timeout.”
Gedeon in protocol
A second Vikings player entered the concussion protocol Sunday after linebacker Ben Gedeon was pulled from the game in the first quarter. It’s not clear on which play Gedeon was injured, but his last snap was covering for Britton Colquitt’s second punt of the game. Gedeon was replaced by linebacker Eric Wilson, who finished with six combined tackles including one run stop.
Right guard Josh Kline remains in the concussion protocol after suffering his second brain injury in seven weeks during the Nov. 10 victory in Dallas. The Vikings were also without Harris and receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring).