Apologies for being a day late on the weekly recap of the five most impactful plays from the latest Vikings game. I have a good reason for the delay—I spent most of Monday traveling back from London after watching our beloved purple & gold dispatch the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium. Of course, the game wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the 33-16 final score would indicate—the first two and a half quarters were a fairly nervy affair for Vikings fans. But in the end, the Vikings are sliding into the bye week Adam Thielen-style with a record of 6-2, a game and a half clear of their nearest competition in the NFC North.
Onto the plays that were the biggest factor in getting there.
Play 1: Browns ball, 1st & 10 on the Minnesota 26. First quarter, 11:27 remaining. (No Huddle, Shotgun) I.Crowell right guard for 26 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Cleveland came into the game at Twickenham without a win and with one of the worst offenses in the NFL. The Vikings were riding a three-game winning streak with one of the best defenses in the NFL. So naturally, Cleveland scored on their second play from scrimmage.
After a tipped pass resulted in Joe Schobert intercepting Case Keenum on Minnesota’s first drive, the Browns started on the Vikings’ 37. After a quick first down, Cleveland caught the Vikings defense off guard with no-huddle. The defensive line never got set, Anthony Harris whiffed on the tackle, and suddenly it was 6-0 for the “home” team.
Suddenly we all realized that getting a win wasn’t going to be as easy as we had hoped. Thankfully, the Vikings showed some resilience after the shaky start.
Play 2: Vikings ball, 2nd & 5 on the Cleveland 18. Second quarter, 2:55 remaining. C.Keenum pass deep right to A.Thielen for 18 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Despite an amazing statistical season, Adam Thielen was having a hard time finding the end zone in 2017. Until this play.
You don’t often get more wide open than that. A blown coverage led to Thielen finally getting his first touchdown of the year. It also led to the Vikings’ first lead of the day and this great soccer-style celebration:
After a shaky start, it looked like the Vikings were finally on track to take control of the game. Until the extra point was blocked, the Browns quickly answered with a touchdown of their own, and the Vikings went into halftime down a point.
Play 3: Browns ball, 1st & 10 at the Cleveland 22. Third quarter, 14:56 remaining. (Shotgun) I.Crowell left guard to CLV 28 for 6 yards (D.Hunter). FUMBLES (D.Hunter), RECOVERED by MIN-A.Harris at CLV 30. A.Harris to CLV 30 for no gain (K.Zeitler).
The start of the first half couldn’t have gone much better for the Browns. The start of the second half couldn’t have gone much better for the Vikings.
On the first play of the 3rd quarter, Danielle Hunter reached in and got a mitt on the ball, causing an Isaiah Crowell fumble. Harris did the smart thing and just secured the recovery. After a fairly sluggish first half by the Vikings defense, this play seemed to set the tone for a dominating performance in the final 30 minutes by the defense.
The offense picked their game up as well.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 2nd & 9 at the Minnesota 42. Third quarter, 3:43 remaining. C.Keenum pass deep left to A.Thielen to CLV 33 for 25 yards (B.Boddy-Calhoun) [T.McGill].
This might be one of the throws of the season from Case Keenum.
With the Vikings still trailing by a point, Keenum delivered an absolute dime while throwing across his body and getting hit. The big completion set up the go-ahead touchdown from Jerick McKinnon and finally gave the Vikings the lead for good.
A lead they put on ice early in the fourth quarter.
Play 5: Vikings ball, 2nd & goal at the Cleveland 4. Fourth quarter, 10:11 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Keenum pass short left to K.Rudolph for 4 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
After the defense forced a three-and-out following McKinnon’s touchdown, Kyle Rudolph used every inch of his 6’5” frame and some fancy footwork to put the game away for good.
Rudy’s toe-tapping act capped off an impressive drive to put the Vikings up by two scores. From there, the defense shut down any thoughts of a Browns comeback (or a backdoor cover for you gambling enthusiasts out there that might have had the Vikings -9.5).
It was a game the Vikings were supposed to win, but they had to overcome some early adversity and all the travel logistics of the London game to do so. The Vikings head into the bye week in great shape despite losing a couple key offensive pieces early in the season.
Which play do you think was the biggest from Sunday? Vote in the poll below, and let us know if we missed any in the comments.
What was the most important play of the Vikings’ win over the Browns?
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Hunter forces fumble, Harris recovers
Keenum to Thielen to set up the go-ahead TD
Rudolph’s toe-tapping, game-sealing TD
Other (comment below)