ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After the initial jubilation of yet another prime-time win settled down in Empower Field at Mile High, Broncos players and coaches saw plenty of room for improvement in Denver's 21-20 win over Minnesota. According to tight end Adam Trautman, that attention to detail and intentionality in seeking out improvements has been crucial to the Broncos' efforts of creating a winning culture.
"There's a lot of things you have to improve upon," Trautman said on Monday. "Obviously, in this league it's all about winning. That can kind of get masked sometimes in the wrong culture, that can get masked by winning. Even though you win, there's a lot of stuff that needs to clean up — a lot on offense.
"We need to flip the script fast on offense and be able to move the ball better, be more consistent, be better [on] third down, be ready in [the] red zone, so collectively as a unit, we just need to do our best."
Head Coach Sean Payton said the Broncos' three takeaways masked an array of other areas where the Vikings outplayed Denver, including run defense and red-zone efficiency on offense.
"We knew it was a complex defense relative to what [the Vikings] did, but I felt like we didn't defend the run the way I wanted to, we certainly didn't score enough points the way we wanted to and the turnovers gave us a chance to win the game," Payton said on Monday. "That's the reality of it."
Offensively, Denver turned three takeaways into just six points and converted five red-zone opportunities into a single touchdown. While the defense continued its opportunistic play with two forced fumbles and an interception and foiled the Vikings' last-minute drive, Minnesota recorded a season-high 175 rushing yards and scored touchdowns on half of their red-zone trips.
"The turnovers put us in the game, but [the Vikings] ran the ball better than us, they were better than us on third down, better than us in the red zone, better than us in most areas," Payton said.
Quarterback Russell Wilson led successful two-minute drills at the end of the first and second halves and led the Broncos' fourth game-winning drive of the season. Still, Wilson said the most encouraging aspect of the game was Denver's potential to improve its play in the final stretch of the regular season.
"The best thing for us is that we can be better, too," Wilson said after the game. "We can be better. We're going to be better. We're going to keep working. I think that's key."
LUTZ KNOCKS IN CAREER-HIGH FIVE FIELD GOALS IN WIN
Kicker Wil Lutz was one of the Broncos' heroes in Denver's Week 10 come-from-behind win over Buffalo on "Monday Night Football," but the outing wasn't his smoothest performance. Lutz missed an extra point and an initial attempt at a game-winning field goal, before a penalty on the Bills gave Lutz his chance to atone with the go-ahead boot.
Against the Vikings, Lutz returned to perfection. The Pro Bowl kicker nailed all five of his field goal attempts and his extra point attempt, including a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half to cut Denver's halftime deficit to a point. The one-point margin of victory made every Lutz field goal essential to the Broncos' victory.
"The more you see the ball go in the uprights, the better, right?" Lutz said. "Like I said, I would love to kick extra points. But with two outstanding defenses like there were tonight, I think it is important to take every point we can get. I am glad I was able to play a big part in that."
Payton said Lutz received the Broncos' game ball on special teams and emphasized the importance of all five kicks to the game's outcome. Even after a career-best day, Lutz deflected credit to the Broncos' offensive and defensive units.
"Points are [at] a premium in this league, and we will take them any way we can get them," Lutz said after the game. "That [was] a huge win for this team. The way the defense played was outstanding. That drive at the end of the game was Russ in a nutshell. What he has done is incredible. I would rather kick extra points, but I will take the win."