Vikings overcome slow start to beat winless Browns
Case Keenum, starting again at quarterback in place of injured Sam Bradford, turned a slow start into 21 second-half points to help the Minnesota Vikings overpower the Cleveland Browns 33-16 on Sunday, Oct. 29, at Twickenham Stadium in London.
The Vikings (6-2) have won four straight games -- three straight with Keenum starting in place of Bradford (knee). The Browns are 0-8 this season and 1-23 under head coach Hue Jackson.
The lead changed five times after the Browns jumped ahead 6-0, and the Vikings did not take the lead for good until late in the third quarter.
“We can’t finish one, so that's sort of where we are,” Jackson said. “We had our chances to make it happen. This team is giving me everything I ask. We're just coming up short.
“I thought (quarterback DeShone Kizer) did some much better things, but we're chasing winning. We're not there, but I thought from his standpoint, he did some good things.”
Kizer, benched in each of his last two starts, did not turn the ball over for the first time this season.
A fumble by running back Isaiah Crowell on the Browns’ first possession of the third quarter opened the door for a 43-yard field goal by kicker Kai Forbath to give the Vikings a 15-13 edge.
After missing a 35-yard field-goal attempt wide left, Browns rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez redeemed himself from 23 yards with 5:36 left in the third quarter to put the Browns back on top 16-15.
The Vikings moved ahead to stay on a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard carry by running back Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon scored a two-point conversion for a 23-16 Minnesota lead.
“We knew coming into the game it would be difficult to run the ball,” McKinnon said. “They've stopped some good backs in the past. We have to keep pounding and grinding it out. We just look to get better and keep working and we'll be good.”
McKinnon carried the ball 14 times for 50 yards. Latavius Murray had 19 carries for 39 yards. Even when the running game struggled, the Vikings kept the Browns' defense honest by continuing to pound the ball. The final balance was 34 run plays and 44 pass plays, including one sack of Keenum.
Aided by three defensive penalties on the Browns, the Vikings moved 84 yards in nine plays and finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 30-16 advantage.
“It was a fight,” Keenum said. “We had to battle hard. We couldn't get things going early. I think it's a sign of a good team where collectively all three phases we fought through and we came out with a win.”
Keenum finished 27-of-43 passing for 288 yards two touchdowns and an interception. Thielen made five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams cashed in takeaways to get on the board in the first quarter.
The Vikings took the opening kickoff and after one first down, a pass thrown by Keenum was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Browns defensive end Carl Nassib and intercepted by middle linebacker Joe Schobert.
Two plays later, Crowell dashed 26 yards for his first rushing touchdown of the season. The extra-point attempt by Gonzalez bounced off the right upright.
The Vikings were forced to punt the next time they had the ball but got the ball back when Browns punt returner Bryce Treggs muffed the punt at the Browns 20. The Vikings had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Forbath after a roughness penalty set them back 15 yards.
The Vikings surged to a 9-6 lead with 2:55 to play in the first half on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Detroit Lakes native Adam Thielen, who was wide open in the back right corner of the end zone. The point-after attempt by Forbath was blocked by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah.
The Browns moved back ahead 13-9 on an 82-yard drive that ended on a 1-yard run by Kizer with 40 seconds left in the first quarter. They made it stand for their first halftime lead of the season, and Forbath kicked a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the half to make the score 13-12 at intermission.
“You definitely have to find small wins and do whatever you can to try to develop individually and as a team,” Kizer said of his personally improved performance. “But 0-8 is 0-8. If I throw six picks and get tossed on the ground 10 times and we win, the flight home is a much different flight.”
Kizer completed 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards. He was sacked three times.
NOTES: WR Stefon Diggs started for the Vikings after missing two games with a concussion. He caught four passes for 27 yards. ... Vikings starting RT Mike Remmers left the game with a concussion. Rashad Hill replaced him. ... Browns starting CB Jason McCourty, the team leader with three interceptions, missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Mike Jordan replaced him. ... Bryce Treggs replaced injured Browns punt returner Jabrill Peppers (toe) and muffed his first attempt after signaling for a fair catch. ... Both the Vikings and Browns are on their bye next week.