I had to drive my wife to the airport today, as she’s going on a big trip to India. Unfortunately, we had to leave about 10 minutes before the game started, and we live anywhere from 30-40 minutes away from the St. Louis airport, depending on traffic. So even though I DVR’d the game, I was going to miss a good chunk of the first half as it happened live. My plan was to not look at my phone or listen to the radio, so I wouldn’t get any sneak peeks, and get caught up when I got home.
But try as I might, I can’t help but peek when I get a score alert. I have zero patience, it turns out.
By the time I crossed the Mississippi River back towards my house, part of me felt like I should turn around, get a ticket, and go to India to avoid watching this game, because what I was reading felt like Buffalo 2.0 from last year. But, being the dedicated professional blogger I am*, and knowing the solemn duty** I have to provide the fantastic content you’ve come to expect over the years***, when I got home I dutifully sat down, and started the game from the beginning.
And as I watched, my insides were getting twisted into knots watching this nightmare unfold. And then when the epic second half comeback began, I started to shout with glee. And then my insides were getting twisted again. And then I shouted, both in glee and frustration. Twisting, shouting. Twist...and shout. Isn’t that right, Beatles?
Well, shake it up, baby, now (Shake it up, baby)
Twist and shout (Twist and shout)
C’mon c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, baby, now (Come on baby)
Come on and work it on out (Work it on out)
Your SMR that finishes stronger in the last five years than 99 other SMR’s follows.
Kirk Cousins, QB: You might want to come at me with a RAWR RAWR RAWR NO ONE DESERVES A BLUE CHIP BECAUSE OF THE FIRST HALF RAWR RAWR RAWR...so if you are that person, just skip this part. Hell, just skip the whole column, because you are incapable of enjoying the small things in life. Yeah yeah, Cousins sucked in the first half. I get it. But so did the playcalling, the defense, and the special teams. So slow your hate roll, Bubba Bitter.
But before you go let me ask you this, miserable person who hates puppies and rainbows—other than winning in primetime, what’s been the thing that Kirk Cousins has been dragged through the garbage over? If your answer is ‘being able to put a team on his back and carry them’, you’ve been paying attention. Cousins did EXACTLY that today, putting up a statline of 29/35 for 319 yards and three touchdowns. And what kind of run has Cousins been on lately? Well, take a look:
Kirk Cousins has thrown 177 passes without an interception, the longest active streak in the NFL, and the longest by a Viking in 24 years.— Paul Charchian (@PaulCharchian) November 17, 2019
Yes, he lost a fumble today, his first turnover since his interception that bounced off Stefon Diggs’ hands back in October, but Cousins and the Vikes offense came out in the second half running the no huddle to perfection. How good was the Vikings second half offense? Well, they had four drives, and scored four touchdowns, compared to 47 yards offense, five punts, and two fumbles in the first half. Cousins was the lynchpin in the Vikings comeback today, and without him the Vikings aren’t sitting at 8-3 right now.
Stefon Diggs, WR: If Cousins was the lynchpin, Diggs was the spark. He had a key 44 yard reception on the opening drive of the second half, and a HUGE 54 yard touchdown reception to close the gap to 23-20. It capped a three play drive that only took 35 seconds, and there was still over 10 minutes left in the game when it happened. That was a critical score, as it took minimal time, really swung momentum to the Vikings side, and gave them plenty of time to complete the comeback.
Jayron Kearse, S: I was chewing on glass on that last Broncos drive—you know, the one went 21 plays, ate up the last six minutes of the game, and ended in the horse being broken. Kearse had at least three pass break ups in the end zone on that last drive that were key in the Vikings escaping with a win, including the last two plays of the game.
Harrison Smith, S: Before he went out with a hamstring injury, Smith seemed to be the only guy on the defensive side of the ball who gave a damn about what was going on. Hats off to Kearse for filling the void, but let’s hope The Hitman will be back after the bye.
Bisi Johnson, WR: If Smith was one of the few guys showing up on defense in the first half, Johnson was one of the few guys showing up early on offense. He had a career high in receptions, with six today, and was one of the few bright spots in what was close to becoming a gloomy day.
Andrew Sendejo, S: Lost in the big second half comeback is what I consider the one play that was the springboard that made it possible. The Vikings were down 20-0 after Denver kicked a field goal, the first half has one minute before halftime...and Ameer Abdullah fumbles the ensuing kickoff. Denver recovers, and they have a GOLDEN opportunity to tack on a TD or field goal and go up either 23-0 or 27-0 at halftime. But on first down, Sendejo stepped in front of a Brandon Allen pass in the end zone and kept the score at 20-0, setting the stage for what was to come
Jaleel Johnson, DT: We’re excited to roll out the Jaleel Johnson stock here on the SMR. There weren’t a lot of players that stood out on defense, but Johnson was one of those guys. He had a sack and a couple tackles for loss, and on a day when the Vikings defense struggled, Johnson was one of the few bright spots.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: Rhodes had another tough day. He got flagged for a pass interference that set up a Denver touchdown, gave up two or three explosive pass plays, and got juked out of his cleats on a big 3rd and 13 play by Royce Freeman on Denver’s last drive that makes the game a lot less suspenseful if he makes a play. All he has to do is stay home and direct Freeman inside after he catches a swing pass, and Anthony Barr more than likely tackles him at about the Denver 42 or so, well short of the first down.
Ameer Abdullah, RB: I have two questions: Why is Ameer Abdullah running footballs out of the end zone down 20 points on kick returns, and why is he on the field with the offense when the Vikings are down by anything more than three points?
Buy: Biggest comeback in the NFL in 5 years when trailing by 20 or more points at halftime. Comebacks like this don’t happen very often, either with this team or the NFL in general. How big of a deal was this?
*1-99 but that's none of my business #skol pic.twitter.com/ib1m5tezVr— jroads ™ (@JRoadsreal) November 17, 2019
Although I don’t recall that Eagles comeback in the article I linked to, I distinctly remember the Tommy Kramer game and the Mike Ditka meltdown game. And I’m not going to forget this game, either. It was epic, and it showed a resiliency in this team that has been hard to find the last couple seasons. I loved it, and I hope we can look back and say ’you know, those two games against the Cowboys and Broncos was a turning point in the 2019 season.’
So, just how narrow were the Vikings chances to win this game?
Win Probability Chart for 2019 Week 11: @Broncos at @Vikings with data courtesy @nflscrapR #NFL #DENvsMIN pic.twitter.com/W1jJgiIF3d— Lee Sharpe (@LeeSharpeNFL) November 17, 2019
This is also the rough equivalent of an EKG had one been given to a Vikings fan over the course of this game.
Sell: Being down by 20 points to a 3-6 team when you’re fighting for a playoff spot. Awesome comeback aside...how the hell do you let a team this talented go down 20-0 to a 3-6 team, at home? No one is a bigger proponent than I am of the NFL being a tough league to win games. I get it, I do. Losing is one thing, but being on the verge of getting your doors blown out by a rookie coach and a rookie QB in your house was startling. And if you want to be considered a serious playoff team, it’s unacceptable.
Buy: The bye coming when it did. I’m generally not a fan of byes, but this couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the Vikings. They can get healthy, regroup, and get ready for an enormously big Monday Night game against Seattle two weeks from now.
Sell: Key injuries. The reason the bye is coming at a great time is because injuries are starting to catch up to Minnesota. Adam Thielen and now Harrison Smith are nursing hamstring injuries, Dalvin Cook looked like his shoulder got banged up, and they’re still waiting for Linval Joseph and Josh Kline to return. They gutted out a win against Denver, but they’re going to need to get healthy for their stretch run.
Buy: A win is a win. I said it earlier, but it’s hard to win in the NFL. Upsets happen all the time, and narratives don’t always apply. Heck, just this week the 49ers almost lost to Arizona, Dallas almost lost to Detroit, and Mitchell Trubisky damn near completed a pass to his left. THIS LEAGUE IS JUST NUTS! Almost every week, there’s an upset in the NFL, and the minute you take an opponent for granted, it’s going to come back to haunt you.
Sell: That kind of game won’t cut it in the playoffs. Coming back down 20 at home against the 3-6 Broncos is one thing. If you go down 20-0 in the playoffs, you don’t win 27-23.
You lose 38-7, or 41-doughnut, for example, and it sucks for years. AND FREAKING YEARS.
Buy: The tight end triumvirate: The VIkings tight ends are starting to make some serious noise. Tyler Conklin had a key 3rd and 14 conversion during the second half comeback, Irv Smith, Jr., caught his first career TD pass to kickstart everything, and Kyle Rudolph set a personal YAC record when he rumbled for an additional 20 yards on his 32 yard TD reception.
Sell: The special teams fumble duo. Between Ameer Abdullah and Mike Hughes, I’m all about the Vikings giving Percy Harvin a ring to see what’s up.
So, the Vikings manage to get to 8-3 as they head into the bye. An ugly win is still a win, and with a week off, hopefully the Vikings can get healthy before they head to Seattle for their Monday Night showdown.