Offense — C
Russell Wilson and Courtland Sutton provided the heroics, and that saves what otherwise was shaping up to be a failing grade. Denver missed 10 of its first 11 third-down tries. It failed four straight times in the red zone before Sutton’s 15-yard scoring grab. The Broncos rushed for 46 yards on 15 attempts, nearly a third of the production coming on one 15-yard Javonte Williams run. At the end of the day, the 10 plays, 75 yards and game-winning touchdown wash away all that frustration, but if Denver’s going to actually make a playoff run, this is the unit that has to improve the most.
Defense — B
Like the offensive heroics, another night full of takeaways serves as something of a mask for the Broncos’ defense. They got three in the form of two fumble recoveries and an interception. They got a key stop in the final 63 seconds when all Minnesota needed was a field goal to win the game. But in between, they gave up 175 rushing yards (after 192 last week in Buffalo) and nine conversions (six on third down, three on fourth down), and too often struggled to tackle in the open field. In the fourth quarter, though, Denver got an interception, forced a field goal after Minnesota had first-and-10 at the Broncos’ 12-yard line and then a close-out turnover on downs. That’s how you finish.
Special teams — B+
Wil Lutz, obviously, gets an A-grade. The Broncos kicker came up big, knocking through all five of his field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder to close the first half. He was nails. That’s a key part of the result, just like last week when he hit a walk-off 36-yarder on a mulligan after missing from 41 against Buffalo. It all nearly went for naught, though, in part because the Vikings sprung a fourth-quarter fake punt on Denver’s return unit that turned into a 31-yard Ty Chandler run on fourth-and-4. Denver’s defense rallied to hold the Vikings to a field goal and Minnesota gets credit for a gutsy call, but the Broncos got caught napping and it easily could have cost a much steeper price.
Coaching — B
The biggest call of the night came for head coach Sean Payton with 2:27 left. The Broncos faced a fourth-and-3 at the outset of their game-winning drive and Payton could have decided to punt. He had the two-minute warning and all three of his timeouts. But given the way the Vikings had run the ball, he kept his offense on the field and it paid off. Wilson hit Sutton for 13 yards through a defensive pass interference penalty and Denver was off and running. Still, though, there’s a lot to clean up. An illegal formation on third-and-1 in the red zone was a killer. Denver still can’t generate a productive drive to open the third quarter. Better to be correcting that stuff, of course, in the midst of a four-game winning streak.
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