MINNEAPOLIS — After the Vikings’ rallied from a 20-point deficit at halftime to beat the Denver Broncos 27-23 on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, wide receiver Stefon Diggs said the media needed to start giving quarterback Kirk Cousins more credit for his play.
“You are hard on him when he isn’t playing well and he’s doing everything that he can,” said Diggs, who caught five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, all in the second half. ” … I want you guys to give him a pat on the back.”
But Cousins, who finished 29 of 35 for 319 yards and three touchdowns, said he’s fine without getting any pats on the back from the media.
“You guys can be as hard on me as you want. I’m living a dream,” he said. “I’m well compensated. I’ve got to take the good with the bad. I’ve got a lot of good with my job. If that means there’s pressure and weight and expectations that sometimes are unfair, that comes with the territory. Welcome to maybe living life at a higher altitude than I used to. That’s OK. Sure, I would love to have all the credit and none of the blame, like Michael Scott says in ‘The Office.’ It doesn’t work that way. If anything, when the blame gets there, I’d like to be able to set an example for my teammates of what it should look like to take blame and point the finger at yourself and to own up. I think, when you do that, you can send a message to people about how you should handle it.”
The Broncos were down by four points and out of timeouts with the clock running in the fourth quarter after Brandon Allen had scrambled for an 11-yard gain and a first down at the Vikings’ 4-yard line. That play began with 33 seconds remaining and now there were only 10 left and the Broncos quarterback, making his second career start, didn’t appear to have the proper urgency to kill the clock by spiking the ball.
That was when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer decided to call time out, enabling the Broncos valuable time to run three more plays. All proved to be incompletions but what was Zimmer thinking in stopping the clock?
“I was trying to see what they were going to be in, number one, and I didn’t feel like we were lined up correctly,” Zimmer said. “That’s why I called time out.”
Vic Fangio, who was hired as the Broncos’ coach last offseason after being the Bears’ defensive coordinator, also made an odd choice on that same drive when he elected to challenge that Vikings safety Jayron Kearse had interfered with tight end Troy Fumagalli on a second-and-6 play from the Minnesota 30. Kearse had broken up the pass over the middle with 2:01 left.
The play came nowhere close to meeting the standard for pass interference upon a review, so it didn’t take long for the call to be upheld. That cost Denver its second timeout. Fangio used his third time out with 33 seconds left.
“I talked to the league this week,” Zimmer said when asked what he thought might happen on the review. “I didn’t think there was any way they were going to overturn it.”
Safety Andrew Sendejo, who was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia this month, had an immediate impact in his first game back with the Vikings. Sendejo, who left Minnesota after eight years following the 2018 season, had a key interception of Allen’s pass at Minnesota’s 2-yard line late in the opening half. The pass was intended for tight end Noah Fant and came with the Broncos leading 20-0 and having just recovered Ameer Abdullah’s fumble on a kickoff return.
The Vikings did not score on the ensuing possession, which ended the first half, but they did on their first possession of the third quarter as their rally began.
“It was big,” Zimmer said of Sendejo’s interception. “I think he was a little rusty in some of the defenses, but he made some plays. He came off the edge one time and made a nice play. The interception, obviously, was a good play. We’ve got to get him a little bit more involved with some of the stuff going forward.”
Fangio acknowledged that Allen made a bad throw into coverage, thus taking away the opportunity for at least three more points by the Broncos. “It’s one of those where you almost … in hindsight, maybe we should have just ran it three times and got our three points and been happy,” Fangio said. “But you would have roasted me if I did that.”
HARRISON SMITH INJURED
The Vikings’ upcoming bye week already was important with wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring), right guard Josh Kline (concussion) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (knee) out because of injuries. But the break became even more crucial when Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter because of a hamstring injury.
The Broncos’ final drive came with Sendejo and Kearse playing safety.
CHANGE OF HEART
The Broncos appeared to have a first down at the Vikings’ 6-yard line in the second quarter when referee Clay Martin’s crew threw a flag for illegal formation as kicker Brandon McManus drilled a 29-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 20-0 lead.
Zimmer was livid about the flag and pointed to the scoreboard replay as he yelled at the officials. Then something very odd happened. The crew picked up the flag, took away the first down and declared the field goal good. In other words, the penalty hadn’t happened at all, even though it was announced.
“I think maybe they looked up at the Jumbotron because it was very clear there was nothing happening there,” Zimmer said. “I don’t think they’re supposed to do that, but thank goodness he did.”
COOK REACHES 1,000 YARDS
Running back Dalvin Cook was held to only 26 yards rushing on 11 carries Sunday but that still put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. Cook finished Sunday with 1,017 yards on the ground in 11 games. He played in only four games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending knee injury and then was in 11 games all of last season. Cook rushed for 354 yards as a rookie and 615 yards in 2018.