In a game that was a tale of two halves, the Minnesota Vikings made the plays when it counted against the Cleveland Browns.
After a sluggish first two quarters, the Vikings dominated the second half of play, both offensively and defensively, and rode that momentum to a 33-16 win over the Browns in their 2017 NFL International Series matchup at Twickenham Stadium in Twickenham, England, Sunday.
Quarterback Case Keenum completed 27 of his 43 throws for 288 yards with two touchdowns against one interception, and got plenty of support from running back Jerick McKinnon, who gained 122 yards (50 rushing, 72 receiving) and scored once in the win.
With the victory, the Vikings (6-2) increased their lead over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North Division to 1.5 games. Conversely, the Browns dropped to 0-8 and 1-23 in their last 24 outings.
Much like the Browns, Vikings got their first points of the game off of a turnover.
After Cleveland fumbled away a punt on special teams, Minnesota kicker Kai Forbath converted a 35-yard field goal and cut the Browns’ lead down to three points, 6-3, with 5:27 to play in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-three from their own 46-yard line, the Vikings elected to punt the ball away to the Browns, but backup returner Bryce Treggs mishandled the kick and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur recovered the turnover at Cleveland’s 20-yard line.
The Vikings took a 9-6 lead over the Browns on Keenum’s touchdown pass to wide receiver Adam Thielen with 2:48 to play in the first half.
On second-and-five from Cleveland’s 18-yard line, Keenum rolled out to his right, and despite pressure from the Browns’ defensive front seven, lobbed a pass down the field, where wide receiver Adam Thielen had gotten behind the coverage of the secondary and was wide open along the back line of the end zone.
The Browns retook a one-score lead over the Vikings on Kizer’s one-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds to play in the first half, Forbath’s 34-yard field goal on the final snap of the third quarter cut Cleveland’s lead down to a point, 13-12, at the intermission.
The Vikings took a two-point lead, 15-13, on Forbath’s 43-yard field goal with 13:32 to play in the third quarter, which capped off a drive set up by Minnesota’s defense.
On first-and-10 from Cleveland’s 22-yard line, the Browns called a run for Crowell, but defensive end Danielle Hunter stripped him of the football, and strong safety Anthony Harris recovered the turnover at the 30.
Then, touchdown and two-point conversion runs from McKinnon gave the Vikings a 23-16 lead over the Browns with 1:16 to play in the third quarter. McKinnon punctuated an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run when he took a handoff from Keenum and sprinted untouched into the end zone.
On the two-point attempt, McKinnon kept his feet moving after first contact and drove his way across the goal line, which gave the Vikings a seven-point advantage.
Early in the drive, Keenum found Thielen down the left sideline for a 25-yard gain. Despite being tightly covered by the Browns’ secondary, Thielen made a jumping catch and held onto the ball as he fell to the field.
Two plays later, Keenum threw an 11-yard pass to McKinnon.
The Vikings took advantage of three defensive penalties and capped off their first drive of the fourth quarter with a Keenum touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph, which gave them a 30-16 lead over the Browns with 10:06 left in regulation.
Of the 84 yards gained by the Vikings on the drive, 48 came on defensive penalties, including a 15-yard roughing-the-passer against Browns linebacker Jamie Collins, a 30-yard infraction for pass interference against cornerback Jamar Taylor on the very next play, and a defensive hold in the end zone charged to Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
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