DENVER (AP) — Stymied all night by the Minnesota Vikings’ smothering defense, Russell Wilson never lost faith in his sputtering offense whose first nine drives ended with Wil Lutz kicking five field goals and Riley Dixon punting four times.
“We just believe in each other … We knew we were going to win this game,” Wilson said after driving Denver on its only touchdown drive in the closing minutes for a 21-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, ending the NFL’s longest winning streak at five games.
Courtland Sutton’s leaping 15-yard touchdown catch with 1:03 remaining was the difference for Denver (5-5), which now owns the league’s longest winning streak at four.
“This guy’s been lights out,” Wilson said of Sutton, who outleapt cornerback Mekhi Blackmon for his eighth TD of the season. “He’s one of the best in the game and I tried to put it on a place that only he could get it. And sure enough.”
Wilson was smacked just as he released the throw, and never saw the game-winning reception: “I think my head was turned sideways. I just heard the crowd going crazy and knew he caught it.”
Danielle Hunter’s tackle of Javonte Williams on the 2-point try kept the Vikings within a point and needing a field goal by Greg Joseph in Denver’s thin air to win it.
The Broncos’ defense — which produced three more takeaways, giving Denver a dozen over its last three games — didn’t allow the Vikings (6-5) to get out of their own side of the field on Minnesota’s desperation drive in the final minute, however.
Denver forced Joshua Dobbs into an intentional grounding that brought up fourth-and-25 before Dobbs threw one final incompletion from the Vikings 21 with 16 seconds left.
Dobbs threw for 221 yards and a touchdown and ran for another but lost with the Vikings for the first time since they acquired him in an emergency trade with Arizona.
Still, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to have both a touchdown throw and a touchdown run in his first three games with a team.
“Man, he’s a lot slippier than I ever (realized) … he was tough to get down,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said. “And he’s taller. I turned to (offensive coordinator Joe) Lombardi in pregame and said, ‘Gosh, I don’t remember Dobbs being 6-3.’
“And I didn’t realize how well he can move in the pocket. And we all kind of lived it in that last 2-minute drive. It was just one escape after the other and finally we got off the field.”
Wilson went 27 of 35 for 259 yards without an interception for Denver.
The Broncos started their go-ahead drive from their 25 with 3:17 remaining after Joseph’s field goal made it 20-15. That kick capped a 7-minute, 20-second drive by the Vikings that featured a fake punt from their own 30.
Ty Chandler took the snap on fourth-and-5 and scurried 31 yards into Denver territory. He added a 19-yard catch-and-run before the drive stalled at the Broncos 12.
That 20-15 lead seemed safe given that Denver had struggled to find any rhythm all night, finishing 2-for-12 on third down and watching the Vikings outrun them 175 yards to 46 yards for a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
Wilson drove the Broncos 75 yards in 10 plays to give Denver, which trailed 17-9 after three quarters, its first lead since 3-0.
“It’s hard in this league to go on the road and win. And it’s even harder when you don’t take care of the football like you’re supposed to,” Dobbs said.
The Broncos kept stalling deep in Minnesota territory with Lutz connecting from 31, 31, 53, 37 and 28 yards. That last one came after nickelback Ja’Quan McMillian’s interception of Dobbs set up the Broncos’ offense just inside the Vikings’ 10-yard line.
JACKSON BACK IN ACTION
Broncos safety Kareem Jackson returned from a two-game suspension for an illegal hit and got away with another one on the Vikings’ opening drive. He led with the crown of his helmet on a third-and-1 run by Dobbs, jarring the ball loose.
No flag was thrown and McMillian jumped on the loose ball at the Vikings’ 30-yard line, Denver’s second straight opening-drive takeaway. Dobbs went straight to the medical tent but came right back out and didn’t miss any snaps.
“It seemed like a pretty direct helmet-to-helmet type hit,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connnell said. “The rule is what it is. They didn’t throw the flag. It happened fast out there. We’ll have to take a look at it.”
So, too, will the NFL, which has already fined Jackson $89,670 for four illegal hits before suspending him two games, costing Jackson $279,000 in lost wages.
Jackson’s hit should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty with Minnesota maintaining possession, suggested NBC rules analyst Terry McAulay.
“He lowers his head and makes forcible contact to the opponent,” McAulay said on the broadcast. “You see, his head is down. This should have been a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.”
Vikings DL Dean Lowry suffered a pectoral injury in the first half and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. WR Justin Jefferson missed his sixth game with a strained right hamstring.
Vikings: Host Chicago on Sunday.
Broncos: Host Cleveland on Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl