When your defensive stats include five sacks, two forced fumbles, holding a top running back to 26 yards and having a first half that holds the opponent to “punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, fumble, punt” on its seven first-half drives, a win is generally in your future.
Especially if your offense boasts 124 yards rushing against a solid run D and your No. 1 receiver catches five passes for 113 yards.
The problem is when your opponent goes “touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown” on all its second-half drives and the best you can do in two quarters is one more field goal.
“We didn’t play well enough. They went no huddle, started throwing it a lot. We didn’t defend it well enough,” said head coach Vic Fangio, adding that the Broncos had plenty of chances including the 3rd-and-14 late in the third quarter that the Vikings converted and eventually scored their second touchdown.
In a game no one thought the Broncos could win, the Vikings became the team that couldn’t lose, overcoming a 20-point deficit in the second half by scoring touchdowns on all four drives.
Chris Harris and Justin Simmons both said the defense took the blame for the loss.
“It was just tough. We should not put the offense in that situation and make it hard for them to win the game for us,” Harris Jr. said. “They spotted us enough points that we just have to close the game.”
Simmons added that the Vikings came out with “a little bit of tempo” in the second half, and the Broncos defense just wasn’t up on its “adjustments.”
“What we did the first half, they did the second half, but more amplified because they found a way to win the game,” Simmons said. “Our offense didn’t have to get one more first down, when we were up 20 to nothing at halftime; we had to win that game defensively.”
Shelby Harris is having himself an F'in day #Broncos Country! pic.twitter.com/J7FhFg0sSg— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 17, 2019
The beginning of the end really started in the first half when the offense, already up 17-0 thanks to touchdowns by Troy Fumagalli and Andy Janovich, had a real shot at two more touchdowns but couldn’t take advantage of turnovers forced by the Broncos’ defense.
A strip sack by Shelby Harris late in the second quarter put the Broncos on the Vikings’ 17-yard line, but an incomplete pass on third-down took away a shot for the end zone and instead gave the Broncos’ three. On the ensuing kickoff, Vikings’ Ameer Abdullah fumbled and Broncos recovered, again on Minnesota’s 17-yard line. This time it was a Brandon Allen interception on the goal line that prevented points for Denver.
“Bad throw by me. Really just trying to force it, wanted to get a big play,” Allen said after the game. “So I think that was on me for forcing it. Probably should have checked that one down.”
The Vikings lit things up in the second half, going no huddle and using a 44-yard completion to Stefon Diggs at the Broncos’ 10-yard line to set up an easy TD two plays later. Broncos answered the drive with only a field goal - and what was to be their last score of the game.
The Vikings chipped away at the field on the next drive, converting two third downs and even a fourth to take nearly six minutes to go 75 yards for another touchdown.
Broncos handed the ball right back to the Vikings after another three-and-out, and Kirk Cousins punished the Broncos’ secondary with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Diggs, bringing the score to within just three.
Although the blame went to Chris Harris Jr. for getting burned on that play, Fangio noted after the game that it was a missed assignment by the safety.
“Yeah, there was supposed to be a safety in the middle there, and he got out of position,” Fangio said. “When you do that against this type of team, when they get it rolling like that, it will kill you. And that killed us there.”
Chris Harris Jr. got beat like a drum and the #Broncos lead is all but gone. pic.twitter.com/OWM10akQyz— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 17, 2019
In the locker room after the game, Kareem Jackson called himself out on that play, saying it was on him to be the “deep middle” for Harris Jr.
“That’s on me. We just have to finish,” Jackson said. “We definitely blew it, and I’m not even talking about the ‘team’ in that aspect. I just feel like, the back end, we didn’t do what we’re supposed to. We came in saying, if we stop the run, we are going to have a great chance of winning the game. And the Front 7 did. The second half, the back end, we gave up some big plays.”
The nail in the coffin was Minnesota’s go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth off just four throws from Cousins, taking advantage of the hurry-up.
Allen and the Broncos had their shots to win the game in dramatic fashion during what would otherwise have been an amazing series, including three fourth-down conversions to keep the 20-play drive alive and the Broncos in contention.
I think the #Broncos are happy Tim Patrick is healthy. pic.twitter.com/r6QhCgEpFh— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 17, 2019
But ultimately three incomplete passes in the end zone - plus one questionable “No DPI” call - would spell a disastrous end defined by a blown lead to give the win to the Vikings.
“There was a guy pulling on my facemask. I couldn’t see the ball,” Patrick said of the no-call. “When the play has something to do with me not seeing the ball, you can’t swallow that.”
Phillip Lindsay, who did manage 67 yards on 16 carries, said ultimately the offense had to execute at the end.
“They are a tough defense and at the end of the day we have to execute certain plays,” he said. “We did at times, but we also did not do that. I am proud of my team and we went out there and we handled our business, but we just need to finish. It came down to one yard and someone has to come up with the 50/50 ball. You have to develop stuff like that.”
But swallow it, the Broncos must - and accept 3-7 as the current record...until the opportunity to improve it next week.
Courtland Sutton, who by all measures had an amazing game with 113 yards receiving plus a 38-yard pass completed to fellow wide receiver Tim Patrick, summed up the mood of the team - disappointed but encouraged.
“If you ask anybody in this locker room, they all know that we are a good team. Our record doesn’t reflect it because we haven’t finished off games,” Sutton said. “The teams that we have lost to know that we are a good team as well. We are going to fight until the very end no matter what. No team is going to overlook us especially after this game. These guys were undefeated at home, so it showed a lot for us to be right there with them.”
I’m not upset at all with the #Broncos loss today. We saw a lot of positives. Something this team can certainly build on moving forward. They have a lot of young pieces that showed in the next couple years you can build this team around them. Very encouraging #BroncosCountry— Brandon Stokley (@bstokley14) November 18, 2019
Knowing that it takes both, which do you blame more for the loss?
This poll is closed
Kim Kardashian (lol - just because she’s annoying - and so is losing)