LONDON — The spectacle of thousands of NFL fans outside Twickenham Stadium Sunday morning was a scene that resonated with Vikings players.
When the team buses rolled through massive tailgates to drop off players at the Home of England Rugby, fans donning plenty of purple, as well as jerseys from other teams, made the Vikings feel at home, despite being 4,000 miles away from Minneapolis.
It was a welcoming moment topped only by another victory, Minnesota's sixth of the season and fourth in a row heading into its bye, in front of a crowd of 74,237.
"The fans were awesome; the environment was awesome," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. "Leading up to it, you really don't get to see that many fans in the [United] States [on the way into stadiums].
"When you're driving up on a bus [here], you see fans everywhere with different jerseys, and it just shows how much they appreciate football in the U.K. It shows that we can have fans around the world. In Minnesota, we've got the best fans, but the fans were awesome here. We would love to come back again as long as we're winning. Winning is always fun when you're on the road."
Minnesota adjusted to the pitch — and to Cleveland's plan on offense and defense — to overcome some early stumbles, including an interception to end Minnesota's first possession as well as 37 yards and a touchdown allowed in its first two defensive snaps.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he had talked with Arizona about cleat choices for the turf to learn about the Cardinals experiences in London last week.
The Week 7 and Week 8 games were just the second and third NFL games ever played at Twickenham and the third and fourth contests in the NFL's 2017 London Games series.
The Vikings trailed 16-15 with 5:34 left in the third quarter but responded with two touchdown drives by the offense and a defense that didn't allow the Browns past their own 47-yard line the rest of the game. The defense allowed just 61 net yards of offense to Cleveland in the fourth quarter.
Jerick McKinnon scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, and Kyle Rudolph caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum.
By the fourth quarter, after Minnesota erased the deficit and was well on the way to a 33-16 victory, Zimmer had a moment to breathe and noticed that Vikings fans had started the SKOL Chant.
"It was a great venue; the fans were outstanding, Viking fans have the SKOL Chant, and this place was sold out," Zimmer said. "It really was an amazing few days that we had here.
"Just going to brag on my players for a minute," Zimmer continued. "Over at the hotel that we stayed at, we had four teams stay there, and they came up to me and said, this is the best, most well-mannered group they have ever had. They sit together, they eat together, they hang out together, say, 'Please,' and, 'Thank you.' So that made me feel good. And they won today, so that made me feel better."
A smaller throng of fans who still lingered as the team buses rolled out nearly six hours after kickoff were rewarded with an impromptu autograph signing by Teddy Bridgewater.
Griffen credits teamwork
It took until the fourth quarter, but Griffen extended his streak of games with at least one sack to eight in a row, matching a Vikings record held by Legends Jim Marshall and Jared Allen.
Griffen's takedown of Browns rookie DeShone Kizer was one of three sacks on the day. Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson also recorded sacks after the Vikings built a lead that prompted the Browns to shift from a quick-pass and run game in search of quicker scores.
Griffen said all of his sacks result from "everybody working together." He finished off Kizer after Harrison Smith made initial contact with the quarterback on a blitz.
"Harrison should have had him, but you know, by the grace of God, he let him go and I got him," Griffen said, adding, "This is the best team I've been a part of, from top to bottom."
"This year we're more dialed in, we're more physical, we're running to the ball more, we're making more plays, and we're doing it on all three phases — on the offensive side, defensive side and special teams. And everything works together."
Attention that the Browns paid to Griffen created opportunities for other Vikings.
"When they do chip me more, we have guys — Danielle Hunter, Tom, B-Rob (Brian Robison), Linval — to make plays, too," Griffen said. "So no matter how many guys they put over there, it doesn't matter. I'm worried about being in my right gap, helping this team win and executing my assignment to be able to get where we want to go. And that's to the top, you know. But one game at a time, you know. This game was fun."
Thielen continues streak too
Receiver Adam Thielen recorded another five receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown to garner "Man of the Match" honors.
Thielen is the only player in the NFL this season to have at least five catches in every game.
Diggs back in action
Stefon Diggs returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his groin at Chicago. Diggs caught four passes for 27 yards, doing most of his damage early before Minnesota shifted to taking more checkdowns to running backs because of the way that Cleveland was playing defense.
McKinnon led the Vikings with 72 yards on six catches.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium in London.
Filling in on the line
Danny Isidora started at left guard for the first time. Isidora replaced Jeremiah Sirles last week against Baltimore. Sirles had started in place of Nick Easton, who suffered a calf injury against Chicago in Week 5.
The Vikings also had to replace right tackle Mike Remmers (concussion) with Rashod Hill early in the game.