The Minnesota Vikings needed a little help if they were to visit the postseason; specifically, they needed the Washington Redskins and their opponent, the Denver Broncos, to lose Sunday. As luck would have it, neither team would cooperate. Broncos kicker Jason Elam kicked a 30-yard field goal in overtime, sending Minnesota home disappointed 22-19.
The first quarter was scoreless; but business began to pick up early in the second quarter. Just nine seconds into the 2nd quarter, Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell connected on a 22-yard field goal, opening the scoring. But Denver quarterback Jay Cutler would throw a pair of touchdown passes in the second quarter – one to Brandon Marshall for 15 yards, and one to tight end Tony Scheffler for 2 yards, giving Denver a 14-3 lead going into halftime.
Elam would add a 43-yard FG, lengthening the Broncos’ lead to 17-3; early in the fourth quarter, the Broncos would record a safety. While scoring a safety is not that unusual, the manner that it was scored was. Vikings offensive tackle Ryan Cook was whistled for a facemask on Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil in the end zone, thus awarding Denver a safety; that would make the score 19-3. But Minnesota would roar back. Two clutch TD passes from Minnesota QB Tarvaris Jackson to WR Bobby Wade – 3 minutes apart – would tie the game (2-point conversions for both TD’s were successful). In overtime, it took Denver only 52 seconds to drive down the field to set up the winning FG by Elam.
Denver’s Cutler had a good outing, going 26-of-37 for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Selvin Young led all Broncos’ rushers with 87 yards on 22 carries; WR Brandon Marshall had a good day, leading all Broncos receivers with 10 catches for 114 yards and a TD, while Scheffler added 7 receptions for 52 yards and a score. Minnesota’s Jackson had a mediocre game, going 16-of-31 for 175 yards and 2 TD’s; Chester Taylor led the Vikings’ rushing attack with 83 yards on only 10 carries, while Adrian Peterson added only 36 yards. Wade led the Vikings receiving corps with 5 receptions for 92 yards and a pair of TD’s.
The Broncos’ (7-9) win was a high note on what was otherwise a disappointing season in many respects; the death of 2 of their players (Darrent Williams and Damien Nash), lots of injuries, inconsistency on both sides of the ball and the inability to grasp onto the defensive scheme that new defensive coordinator Jim Bates put into place put a very small learning curve into this season. And more than likely, there will be changes. Expect WR Rod Smith to retire as he is expected to have surgery performed on his chronically ailing hip (hip replacement is probably the surgery they do); there’s also the decision as to whether safety John Lynch retires, as well.
Minnesota (8-8), largely ignored as playoff contenders, nearly pulled it off. They have a somewhat solid foundation going into next year; however, there may be a question at QB, as head coach Brad Childress has as of late been non-committal as to what their plans at the position will be. Jackson has shown flashes of the QB that he can become, but at the same time, was maddeningly incosistent. So QB is a position worth watching as the draft arrives.