DENVER — The Broncos' winning streak hung in the balance.
For much of Denver's "Sunday Night Football" matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, the team's offense struggled to muster much success.
Through nearly 57 minutes of action, the Broncos had converted just one of 10 third-down attempts and failed to score a touchdown in its four red-zone possessions. Despite three takeaways from Denver's defense — including one that gave the Broncos the ball inside Minnesota's 10-yard line — the Broncos had notched just five field goals through their first nine drives.
And yet, they had a chance. After the Broncos' defense held Minnesota to a field goal with 3:17 to play, Russell Wilson and Denver's offense had an opportunity to erase a five-point deficit and secure a fourth consecutive win.
A chance was all the Broncos needed.
Wilson and the Broncos moved the ball 75 yards in two minutes, 14 seconds for the game-winning touchdown and pushed their record back to 5-5 after a 1-5 start to the 2023 campaign. Wilson now has a league-high four game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks in 2023.
"It was a gutsy drive," Head Coach Sean Payton said. "Fortunately, we had our timeouts. … It was a good drive, and he got a lot of different looks. When [Wilson] got coverage, he found the running backs again, much like last week. A little bit longer drive, but — then we got blitzed. There's a lot that they do defensively, but it was good, obviously, to come out with a win."
The drive was far from easy. The Vikings brought a variety of pressure looks, and Denver's drive nearly stalled before it ever really got started. After a run for no gain on the first play of the drive, Wilson's second-down pass fell incomplete. On third down, Wilson handed the ball to Samaje Perine, who carried it 7 yards to create a manageable fourth-down opportunity. Facing fourth-and-3 from their own 32-yard line, the Broncos converted their chance as Wilson found Courtland Sutton, who secured a one-handed grab — and drew a pass interference call for good measure.
From there, the Broncos moved quickly. Wilson hit Perine for a 10-yard gain to the Minnesota 45-yard line and then found him for 17 more yards to the Minnesota 28-yard line after the two-minute warning. A third consecutive pass to Perine almost ended in disaster, as Perine fumbled near the Broncos' sideline. The ball was a foot out of bounds before the Vikings could reach it, though, and Denver's drive continued. After a third-down conversion — their second of the entire game — courtesy of Perine (who else?), Wilson found the end zone for the first time. On first-and-10 with just over a minute to play, Wilson launched the ball to the left corner of the end zone, where Sutton rose to snatch it out of the air.
"This guy has been lights out every day," Wilson said. "His work ethic. His leadership. His dedication to the game. His dedication to getting better every day. He's one of the best in the game. I just tried to put it in only a place that he could get it and sure enough — I think my head was kind of turned to the side — and I heard the crowd go crazy, and I knew he caught it. We just believe in each other. We just believe in each other. We knew that we were going to win this game. That's how we felt. That was our mindset."
The crowd erupted as Denver took the lead for the first time and put itself in position to earn back-to-back prime-time wins.
"Once I saw it coming, I knew I was like, 'I can't wait for this to come down,'" Sutton said. "I knew there were defenders around us, so I had to go and make a play. It was up in the air and you never know, you can run your route and you never know where the ball will go because we have great weapons on offense and you never know where the ball is going to go, who it is going to find. I looked up and saw the ball finding me. It was nice."
And for an offense that struggled for much of the game, it was a breakthrough that helped Denver keep its momentum and knock off the hottest team in football.
"We don't need to keep winning in the last possession of the game," tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "It definitely would be easier on everybody's hearts and probably all our families' hearts. But yeah, that's kind of been our recipe, and there's no quit.
"We have a lot of fight, and a lot of heart, and I'm so proud to be a Bronco."