The Vikings took a lead on the first play of the second quarter and fended off the Broncos multiple times, but Denver's 15-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Courtland Sutton with 1:03 remaining provided the decisive 21-20 margin with 1:03 remaining in the game.
Sutton high pointed the wobbly duck over rookie Mekhi Blackmon, who started in place of Akayleb Evans (knee). Blackmon slapped at Sutton's arm to no avail.
The Vikings struggled to move the football for pretty much the first time all night as the Broncos increased their blitzes.
Denver forced an intentional grounding penalty against Joshua Dobbs on third-and-10 from the Minnesota 36-yard line, and a deep heave down the middle on the ensuing fourth-and-25 fell incomplete.
The Vikings had executed a solid road blueprint, out-rushing the Broncos 175 to 46 and possessing the football for 34:58, but the advantage in the run game faded once the seconds became sparse.
No longer in Seahawks colors, Wilson showed he still has some kind of anti-Viking venom late in games, but much of his damage during the final drive occurred on dump-off passes to running back Samaje Perine.
After Perine ran for 7 on third-and-10, Wilson converted a fourth-and-3 with a pass that Sutton one-handed despite pass interference by Ivan Pace, Jr.
Perine then added catches of 10 and 17 on each side of the 2-minute warning. Another pass to Perine gained 6 before Pace forced a fumble that trickled just out of bounds before Pace could collect the pigskin. He added another catch for 7 on third-and-4 a play before the touchdown.
It was the only touchdown for the Broncos on the night. Denver (5-5) won its fourth game in a row and snapped the five-game win streak by Minnesota (6-5) by winning the turnover battle 3-0.
Wilson nearly threw an interception at the end of the first half, but the ball bounced off Josh Metellus, and Denver kicked a 52-yard field goal on the following play as the first half expired to make it 10-9 Vikings at intermission.
The Broncos were just 2-for-12 on third downs.
Here are four more observations from the game.
- Responding to Rocky start
Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Vikings fumbled on their opening possession.
On just the third snap of the game, the Vikings turned to trickery with T.J. Hockenson taking a snap and pitching the ball to Joshua Dobbs, who veered to the left but encountered a logjam of traffic.
He was stuffed, by Baron Browning, who got credit for the forced fumble, starting to pry the ball away before Kareem Jackson led with his helmet to finish the tackle. Ja'Quan McMillian recovered the ball at the Minnesota 30.
The Broncos advanced to the 15 in two plays, but after a 2-yard run by Javonte Williams, Danielle Hunter recorded his 12th sack of the season (and 83rd of his career), tackling Wilson for a loss of 7.
It was a nifty play design with Josh Metellus rushing off the edge to occupy the running back while Hunter zipped past Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles to create a third-and-15 and help Minnesota limit Denver to a 31-yard field goal.
- Dobbs' mobility keys two touchdowns
Dobbs on Sunday became the first player in NFL history to pass and rush for at least one touchdown in each of his first three games with a team.
Mobility — and toughness as a runner — was central to both scores.
The passing touchdown—a 3-yarder to Josh Oliver—involved Dobbs scrambling to his right, but keeping his eyes down the field. He shed a tackle by outside linebacker Jonathan Cooper (listed 6-foot-4, 257 pounds), drew multiple defenders and fired a calm strike to Oliver.
That touchdown put Minnesota on the board to open the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Dobbs scrambled on third-and-8 and had enough gas to launch across the goal line at the end of the run.
Dobbs finished 20-of-32 with 221 yards, one score and an interception that occurred after he was hit while releasing the football. He rushed eight times for 21 yards and had the early fumble lost.
The fumble and the interception set up the Broncos for two of their five field goals.
- Fake punt flawlessly executed
The Vikings followed the early fourth-quarter drive that ended with the interception by running 14 plays to cover 63 yards and consume 7:20.
The drive was extended with a flawless fake punt on which long snapper Andrew DePaola perfectly guided the football to Ty Chandler, who sprinted into the open.
Punter Ryan Wright helped sell the fake by pretending the snap was low and to the left.
The 31-yard run by Chandler added to his 73 yards on 10 carries.
Alexander Mattison rushed 18 times for 81 yards, but a fumble at the Denver 34 took away a potential opportunity for a field goal or more late in the third quarter.
Instead of a 20-9 edge or better, the Vikings were still trying to protect a 17-9 edge.
Chandler also showed up later in the drive with a 19-yard reception on third-and-20 that enabled a sneak by Dobbs on fourth-and-1, but the drive stalled at the 12-yard line three plays later.
The Vikings failed to make the absolute most out of the success of the fake punt.
- Barr back in action
Anthony Barr was wearing a new number, 54, after getting clearance from his former teammate Eric Kendricks, and his action was limited, but the linebacker showed up in a couple of packages.
Elevated from the practice squad Saturday after joining the Vikings earlier in the week, Barr lined up as an edge rusher and then dropped into coverage to tackle Jerry Jeudy on a third-and-7 and force a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter.
It will be interesting to see the way Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores continues to work Barr into the mix going forward.