The Week 5 match-up between the Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos was expected to be a hard-fought, physical battle between two of the best defenses in the National Football League. It lived up to that billing, but not the way Minnesota fans hoped.
After an afternoon of punching and counter-punching, the Broncos landed the final blow, as a 39-yard field goal by Brandon McManus provided the difference in Denver's 23-20 victory over the Vikings in Week 4 action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Broncos drew first blood in this one, as they marched down the field on their first possession (following a Vikings punt) and reached the Minnesota 15-yard line. However, the Vikings' defense stiffened from there and forced Denver to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Brandon McManus to make the score 3-0 early on.
After a miss by Blair Walsh on a 38-yard field goal attempt, the Broncos needed just one play to get back on the scoreboard, as running back Ronnie Hillman took one around the left side of the Denver offensive line, got into the clear, and outran everybody to the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown run. McManus added the extra point to extend Denver's lead to 10-0. That quickly became a 13-0 lead after McManus added a second field goal, this one from 47 yards out.
Minnesota did dent the scoreboard just before halftime, as Walsh hit from 38 yards out to make the score 13-3 in favor of the Broncos with a little more than a minute and a half left in the second quarter. The Broncos appeared to be marching down the field again, but Peyton Manning was intercepted by Anthony Barr. Barr returned the first interception of his career into Denver territory at the 32-yard line, and a penalty on the Broncos for 12 men on the field put the ball at the 27. Teddy then found Mike Wallace on consecutive passes, with the second being a four-yard touchdown strike to give Wallace his first touchdown as a Viking, and the extra point by Walsh cut the deficit to 13-10 going into the locker room at halftime.
Denver got the ball first in the second half, and marched down the field in rapid fashion, keyed by a 47-yard throw from Manning to Emmanuel Sanders down to the Minnesota 3-yard line. The Vikings' defense forced a fourth down attempt by the Broncos, but they made it easy for Manning as he found a wide open Owen Daniels for a 1-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 20-10 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings forced a Broncos punt from midfield, and the result was them starting a drive at their own 3-yard line. The Vikings moved the ball down the field. . .there was even a Cordarrelle Patterson sighting. . .and a pass from Bridgewater to Adam Thielen gave the Vikings a 4th-and-1 at the Denver 48-yard line. The Vikings handed the ball to Adrian Peterson, who got through the first level. . .and discovered there was no one else there, as he just kept going for a 48-yard touchdown run. The extra point by Blair Walsh cut the deficit to three points again at 20-17 with ten minutes left in the ball game.
On Denver's next drive, the Vikings collected their second interception of Manning on the afternoon, this one by Harrison Smith. Minnesota pushed into Denver territory again, with Bridgewater completing several big passes to keep the drive alive. Ultimately, however, they had to settle for another Blair Walsh field goal attempt, as he hit from 33 yards out to tie the game at 20.
Denver took the lead once again on their next drive, as they made their way down the field and got all the way to the Minnesota 21-yard line. However, the defense stood tall once again, and the Broncos had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Brandon McManus to put themselves back on top, 23-20, with 1:51 left in the game and the Vikings holding two time outs.
Bridgewater started the next drive by scrambling to convert a big 3rd-and-10 after he was sacked by Von Miller on second down, and then hit Mike Wallace on a 17-yard toss to the Minnesota 47. Wallace got out of bounds with fifty seconds left on the clock. After a throw away on first down, Bridgewater was sacked by T.J. Ward. . .the seventh sack he absorbed on the afternoon. . .and fumbled the ball. The Broncos recovered, and they took the victory formation to secure a 23-20 victory.
Bridgewater was under siege from the top defense in the NFL all day, and responded fairly well. He completed 27-of-41 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown against what had been the NFL's best defense coming into this week's action. Adrian Peterson didn't have a great day, save for his big touchdown run, as he carried the ball 16 times for 81 yards and a touchdown. Over half of his yardage came on the touchdown run, as the Broncos pretty well kept him under wraps for most of the afternoon. Mike Wallace led the Vikings in receptions with eight, racking up 83 yards and a touchdown. In terms of yardage, the team's leader was rookie Stefon Diggs, who brought in six catches for 87 yards. Adam Thielen also chipped in with six grabs for 70 yards.
For Denver, Manning was great, but he was good enough to get the job done. He completed 17-of-27 passes for 213 yards, a touchdown, and the two critical interceptions that kept the Vikings in this one. Ronnie Hillman. . .who, like Peterson, didn't do much outside of one big run. . .led the Broncos in rushing with 11 carries for 103 yards and the big 72-yard touchdown. Demaryius Thomas led the Broncos in receiving with nine catches for 93 yards, and Emmanuel Sanders had just three grabs, but covered 68 yards on those three catches.
The Vikings fall to 2-2 on the season, and will take their bye week in Week 5. The Broncos move to 4-0 on the season, and will travel to the west coast to take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 5 action.
The Minnesota Vikings fall to the Denver Broncos in Denver by a final score of 23-20. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of this week's game from us here at The Daily Norseman!