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After Further Review: Vikings Find Explosive Plays in 2nd Half Comeback

After Further Review is a deeper look at plays or stats after Vikings games…

The Vikings completed a thrilling comeback on Sunday against the Broncos, erasing deficits of 20 at halftime and 16 in the fourth quarter thanks to connecting on multiple explosive plays en route to a 27-23 victory.

The first stemmed from a burst of tempo that seemed to catch Denver off-guard. The second and third built off the Broncos respect for and focus on stopping the run.

Here’s another look at Minnesota’s three longest plays of the day.

Q3, 12:46 remaining — First-and-10 at the Minnesota 46

The Vikings have just moved the chains by converting a fourth-and-1 with a quick-snap sneak by Kirk Cousins.

Minnesota lines up in the shotgun with 11 personnel (Dalvin Cook is beside Cousins, and Kyle Rudolph is on the line of scrimmage). The Vikings have Stefon Diggs on the left and line up Josh Doctson, who was playing his first game with Minnesota, on the outside of receiver Laquon Treadwell on the right.

Denver appears to be slow in communicating the defensive call.

Diggs

The screen shot shows Chris Harris, Jr., who is across from Doctson, trying to communicate across the field with Davontae Harris. Harris is looking toward the middle of the field and standing flat-footed when the ball is snapped.

He’s not ready when Diggs zooms off the line of scrimmage. Diggs is able to get steps on Harris and track the ball effectively for a jump-start that the offense desperately needed.

Q4, 10:29 remaining — Third-and-2 at the Minnesota 46

Cousins has just zipped a dart to Tyler Conklin on the second play of the possession for a gain of 8.

Rather than simply trying to move the chains, Minnesota again goes no-huddle and dials up a play with a deep shot and other routes.

Cousins is in the shotgun with Cook to his left. He fakes a handoff as the running back heads to the right and draws attention from the entire front seven of Denver’s defense.

PlayActionPass

This allows Cousins the luxury of space and time, as well as a nice spot to set up a considerable distance away from Von Miller, who is on the right of Minnesota’s offensive line.

“I think part of [the success] is we get outside,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. “You get a little bit more time when you get outside the pocket. We’ve been running some double moves on some of those. The one on Diggs wasn’t a double move, it was just a straight post. But just longer time for DBs to cover.”

Rather than trying to apply pressure to Cousins, linebacker Malik Reed drops into a zone. Shelby Harris, who had a strong game, tries to get to Cousins but is too late.

The amount of time allows Diggs to utilize his speed and precision when changing direction on a backside post against Harris, Jr. Denver’s Kareem Jackson is too far away to help against Diggs.

Cousins puts the ball on the money with a big-time throw.

According to Next Gen Stats, Diggs topped out at 20.52 miles per hour on the play, the sixth-fastest speed by a ball carrier in Week 11.

Q4, 6:10 remaining — First-and-10 at the Minnesota 32

The Vikings have just converted a third-and-5 with a 9-yard pass to Diggs. Minnesota put Diggs in the slot, which created a 1-on-1 against cornerback Duke Dawson.

Now in field goal range and trailing by just three points with six-plus minutes remaining, the Vikings have more of their playbook to work with, rather than just the hurry-up offense.

They line up Cousins under center and use 12 personnel. Cook is in the backfield. Tight ends Rudolph and Irv Smith, Jr., join receivers Diggs and Bisi Johnson on the play.

Cousins fakes a handoff to Cook, who runs to the right and again draws heavy attention. Smith, Jr., helps sell the run. The quarterback bootlegs to the left and again has time and space to wait for the play to develop.

Rudolph

No one sees Rudolph sneaking down the field and cutting behind the Broncos linebackers. Diggs clears out a cornerback by running a deep route.

Dawson is caught in no man’s land, and Cousins is able to drop the throw in over the defensive back’s head.

Rudolph catches the ball at the 20 and has an avenue to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

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