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Photo: Minnesota Vikings Game Balls
Minnesota Vikings Game Balls

Kevin Stefanski

This is how the Vikings’ drives ended on Sunday:

  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Fumble
  • Punt
  • HALFTIME
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown

That tells the story, doesn’t it?

During the first half, the Denver Broncos had held the league’s third most prolific offense to 47 yards in the first half at an average of 2.04 yards per play.

The Vikings’ running game had been bottled up and the Vikings had shot themselves in the foot with countless mistakes.

The Broncos had gone up 20-0 with a minute left in the half and on the ensuing kickoff Ameer Abdullah fumbled the ball to give Denver possession in the red zone. On their first play, however, Andrew Sendejo stepped in front of Brandon Allen‘s pass for an interception that changed the momentum of the game going into halftime.

Recognizing failure when it’s staring him in the face, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski ditched the game plan and stepped up the passing game for the second half.

Star Tribune‘s Andrew Krammer reports:

Inside the Vikings locker room during intermission, coaches made a game-changing shift when opting to open the second half in their hurry-up, two-minute offense — installed on Fridays and Saturdays — and scrapped parts of the rest of the week’s game plan that produced 47 yards and no points in the first half.

Hurry-up offense in second half got Vikings going
Photo: Kevin Stefanski
Kevin Stefanski. Photo courtesy Minnesota Vikings

Stefanski’s adjustments continued into the second half with tweaks planned out on a whiteboard in between drives.

The faster pace got the ball out of Cousins’ hand quicker and used play-action and bootlegs to get him outside the pocket. It was on these plays that Cousins connected on two scoring plays that gave him all kinds of time to find Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudloph for explosive touchdown plays.

For his ability to adjust on the fly, Stefanski deserves a game ball.

Kirk Cousins

While Stefanski’s playcalling put the team in position to succeed in their comeback bid, Cousins still needed to execute.

Kirk Cousins opened the second half leading the team in the no-huddle offense, going 75 yards on 9 plays capped with tight end Irv Smith Jr.‘s first NFL touchdown. Cousins connected with Diggs for 44 yards on the drive, to put the team in scoring position.

Here’s the first touchdown on a play-action rollout that gave Cousins plenty of time to find Diggs for a 54 yard bomb.

That put the Vikings within three points of Denver.

And if at first you succeed, try it again. Here’s the go-ahead touchdown by Kyle Rudolph on another play-action rollout.

Head coach Mike Zimmer liked what he saw:

The ball he threw, the post to Diggs was an outstanding ball. Just seeing what he was getting, where he was going with the football. His accuracy I think was 83 percent or something like that, so yeah, it was really, really good.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

The Athletic‘s Chad Graff put this performance in perspective.

…this was the type of game that remained elusive for him before Sunday. He hadn’t shown that he could will his team to a victory when everything was going wrong. He did it without one star wide receiver and with the other openly complaining on the sideline about not getting the ball. He did it without much of a running game and without a dominant defense.

Halftime speeches, whiteboard plays and a chip on the shoulder: How the Vikings pulled off Sunday’s comeback

Cousins made 29 completions on 35 attempts (82.9%), good for 319 yards, three touchdowns while taking five sacks. It was good for a 133.2 quarterback rating against a superb Denver defense.

For all that, Cousins deserves a game ball.

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