The Minnesota Vikings erased a 20-0 halftime deficit with touchdowns on each of their four drives in the second half, fending off the Denver Broncos by forcing three straight incomplete passes in the end zone over the final 10 seconds to preserve a 27-23 victory on Sunday in Minneapolis.
This was the first time in five years — a span of 100 games including the playoffs — that an NFL team won after trailing by 20 or more points after two quarters.
Kirk Cousins went 29 for 35 for 319 yards and three scores for the Vikings (8-3), overcoming a system-wide failure in the first half that included a lost fumble during a sack that led to one of three field goals by Brandon McManus for the Broncos (3-7).
Cousins hit Stefon Diggs for a 54-yard touchdown pass that brought the crowd noise to a deafening level and cut the lead to 23-20. McManus went wide right from 41 yards on his fourth attempt, and Cousins found Kyle Rudolph wide open for a 32-yard score on the next possession with 6:10 left. Both of those throws by Cousins came off bootleg rollouts to his left, the type of passing play he has long thrived on.
Brandon Allen, the fill-in quarterback after the injury to Joe Flacco and the impending debut of rookie Drew Lock, admirably drove the Broncos to the cusp of a comeback of their own with a drive that included three fourth-down conversions.
With first-and-goal from the 4, but only 10 seconds and no timeouts remaining, Allen had three chances at the winner. Trae Waynes knocked down the first one, Jayron Kearse had a hand on the second one and the last try for Noah Fant sailed past the rookie tight end after he and Kearse tussled for position.
The Broncos have not scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter for six straight games. The last team guilty of such a severe second-half collapse was Atlanta on Oct. 26, 2014, when a 21-0 lead at home turned into a 22-21 victory for Detroit. According to Sportradar, this was only the 14th time in NFL history that a 20-plus-point halftime deficit turned into defeat.
The Vikings hardly could have played more poorly over the first two quarters. They punted on their first four possessions and already trailed 10-0 when they finally got a first down, finishing with just 47 total yards in the first half. With the deficit at 17-0, Cousins hit Diggs for a 34-yard gain that was wiped out by a holding penalty on left tackle Riley Reiff, who had a particularly difficult time against the pass rush.
The Broncos drove 90 yards for their first touchdown, a third-and-goal throw to tight end Troy Fumagalli for his first career score. They spiced up their play calling with repeated success, using a 38-yard reverse pass by Courtland Sutton to fellow wide receiver Tim Patrick. Sutton kept the ball on two more end-around plays during that drive, including a fourth-and-1 run from the 7 to set up their second touchdown.
One break went Minnesota’s way, an ominous end to Denver’s momentum. The kickoff after the field goal that followed the fumble by Cousins was fumbled and lost by Ameer Abdullah at the 17 by Josey Jewell with 60 seconds left. Allen’s pass for Noah Fant on the next play was intercepted by Andrew Sendejo, preventing the Broncos from taking a four-score lead.
Cowboys 35, Lions 27 — Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns, making it three wins in four games for Dallas (6-4) as they prepare for next Sunday’s game in Foxborough against the Patriots. Dallas has had balance with the ball, but racked up 509 total yards against Detroit (3-6-1) running on barely a third of its plays. Prescott, who completed 29 of 46 passes, threw a 21-yard TD pass to Tony Pollard early in the second quarter and a 19-yard pass to Randall Cobb with 27 seconds left in the half, giving him a career-high 274 yards passing before the break. Without Matthew Stafford for a second straight game, Jeff Driskel played well enough to give Detroit a shot to compete — 15 of 26 for 209 yards, two TDs passing, and a rushing score — but the Lions have lost six of seven.
Bills 37, Dolphins 20 — Josh Allen tied a career high with three touchdown passes and ran for another score in Miami Gardens, Fla., as Buffalo (7-3) scored on its first four possessions and its defense was simply too much for Miami (2-8). The Bills totaled a season-high seven sacks and allowed only 23 yards rushing, while also setting season highs in points and yards (424). Allen went 21 for 33 for 256 yards without a sack or turnover. His passer rating of 117.7 was a career high, and he extended his streak of passes without an interception to 163. John Brown had two of the three touchdown receptions, among his nine catches for 137 yards, both season highs.
Saints 34, Buccaneers 17 — Drew Brees threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns as NFC South leading New Orleans (8-2) rebounded from a shocking home loss to Atlanta. Safety Marcus Williams put an exclamation point on a strong defensive performance as well, returning the third of four Jameis Winston interceptions 55 yards for a touchdown. NFL receptions leader Michael Thomas had eight receptions for 114 yards, boosting his season totals to 94 catches for 1,141 yards; he’s the first player in league history with 90-plus catches in the first 10 games of a season. The Saints outgained Tampa Bay (3-7) — losers of five of six following a 2-2 start — 195 yards to 11 while building an early 20-0 lead, controlling the ball for 20 of the game’s first 25 minutes.
Rams 17, Bears 7 — Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown ran for touchdowns, and Los Angeles (6-4) won by double digits despite a meager offensive performance that included five three-and-outs, six punts, and two turnovers. Gurley tied a season high with 97 yards on 25 carries. After Tarik Cohen’s third-quarter touchdown catch brought Chicago within 10-7, the hosts put it out of reach with 3:35 remaining in the fourth quarter on Brown’s 5-yard run. Jared Goff was 11 of 18 for 173 yards and an interception, but that was enough to beat the Bears (4-6), who averaged just 3.6 yards per play and inserted Chase Daniel for their final series. The team reported Mitchell Trubisky, who was 24 of 43 for 190 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, had a hip injury.
Jets 34, Redskins 17 — In Landover, Md., Sam Darnold more than made up for an interception deep in his own territory by throwing for 293 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, and the New York (3-7) defense sacked rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins six times in winning for a second straight week. Safety Jamal Adams had three of the six sacks in the first game since Washington (1-9) named Haskins its starter for the rest of the season, while the Jets eclipsed 400 yards of offense for the first time in 20 games. The hosts did break their franchise record run of 16 consecutive quarters without a touchdown before Derrius Guice scored on a 45-yard screen pass early in the fourth.
Falcons 29, Panthers 3 — Atlanta (3-7) intercepted Kyle Allen four times — double the two picks they had in the season’s first nine games — and sacked him five times, Kenjon Barner returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, and the Falcons cruised for a second straight week against an NFC South foe despite playing without running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper. Matt Ryan threw for 311 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley, who finished with eight catches for 143 yards. Christian McCaffrey finished with 191 yards from scrimmage for Carolina (5-5), which has lost three of four since its bye, but failed to score for the first time since Week 2.
Colts 33, Jaguars 13 — Jacoby Brissett threw one touchdown pass, ran for another score, and used an impressive ground game to end a two-game losing streak for host Indianapolis (6-4), which ripped off 31 straight points despite the return of starting quarterback Nick Foles for Jacksonville (4-6). Marlon Mack carried 14 times for 109 yards and a touchdown for the Colts before leaving in the third quarter with a hand injury. His replacement, Jonathan Williams, had 13 carries for 106 yards — the first time Indy had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since 1985. Foles was 33 of 47 with 296 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first game after missing eight with a broken left collarbone; Jacksonville rushed for only 29 yards.
Raiders 17, Bengals 10 — Derek Carr completed his first 14 passes on his way to 292 yards and a touchdown, rookie Josh Jacobs had his fourth 100-yard game in the last six weeks, and host Oakland (6-4) won its third straight to move into a first-place tie in the AFC West with Kansas City, which plays Monday night. Maxx Crosby had a team rookie record four sacks as the Raiders harassed Ryan Finley and shut down the offense of winless Cincinnati (0-10), which led after a quarter on Joe Mixon’s rushing touchdown — the Bengals’ first this season by someone other than deposed quarterback Andy Dalton. Finley, in his second start, completed just 13 of 31 passes for 115 yards.