MINNEAPOLIS — After Courtland Sutton beat the Vikings for much of Sunday’s game, Minnesota wasn’t going to let him that happen on the final plays.
As the Broncos tried to complete a comeback — one that was surprisingly necessary after leading 20-0 at halftime — they had three chances from the 4-yard line in the final minute.
On first down, Brandon Allen targeted Tim Patrick. On second down, he searched for Noah Fant. On third down — the final snap of the game — Allen again went back to Fant.
Sutton, who finished the game with five catches for 113 yards, was not targeted.
After the Broncos left the field with another last-second loss, Sutton confirmed he was double-teamed on each of the final three snaps.
“Coach knows what he’s doing,” Sutton said. “We all trust Brandon’s decision-making. He was throwing the ball where we had the best opportunity to score.”
After the way Sutton played, it’s clear the Vikings made the right decision to swarm the SMU product at the end of their 27-23 win.
In addition to Sutton’s five catches, he also drew a 24-yard pass interference call against Xavier Rhodes. The cornerback is a two-time Pro Bowler and former first-team All-Pro, and Sutton still recorded the second-highest receiving yardage total of his young career.
Only Sutton’s performance in Week 1 against Oakland was better than his Week 11 showing, as he topped 100 yards for just the second time.
Sutton recorded a catch of 48 yards on the Broncos’ first touchdown drive, and he then threw a 38-yard pass and picked up a fourth-and-1 on a jet sweep as Denver marched to another touchdown.
In the second half, Sutton had another reception for a first down as the Broncos added a field goal to push their lead to 23-7. Allen then found Sutton for 43 yards to the Minnesota 32-yard line in the fourth quarter, but Brandon McManus missed an ensuing 43-yard field-goal attempt.
“I’ve been impressed with Courtland all year,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said. “He's tough to handle. We thought we could get some balls to him this game up the field, and we did. That pass interference for a lot of yards is part of that, which kind of gets lost in the shuffle. They gave him a lot of attention too, but he still is a great player for us and one that we can build around.”
Patrick, who was on the receiving end of Sutton’s 38-yard pass, said he knows Sutton is among the league’s best receivers.
“He’s definitely [at] the top, week in and week out,” Patrick said. “He’s gaining respect now. He’s getting double-teamed, but he’s still coming out with big plays. When you’re still making plays once you get double-teamed, you’re up there with the elite.”
Through 11 weeks, excluding “Monday Night Football,” Sutton ranks ninth in the NFL in receiving yards and has already surpassed his 2018 total by more than 100 yards. With another touchdown, Sutton will also best his touchdown total.
Among players with at least 20 total catches, Sutton also ranks 11th in the NFL in yards per reception with 16.4 yards per catch.
As the Broncos continue their season, he could be well-poised to earn his first Pro Bowl nod. Only Buffalo’s John Brown has more receiving yards among AFC receivers.
Chances are, Sutton will be up to the task. As he demonstrated Sunday in Minneapolis, three more road games in the next four weeks won’t be an issue.
He proved that in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos faced a second-and-10 while leading by just three points, and the Minnesota crowd grew as loud as it had been all afternoon. The Skol chant echoed through U.S. Bank Stadium, and the Broncos had to call a timeout. As Denver’s offense retook the field, the noise grew again.
Sutton welcomed it.
“I feed off the energy,” Sutton said. “I don’t look at it as, 'They’re getting the home team hyped.' I look at it as, 'That’s energy for us.' They feel like they have to get loud to stop us. I feed off that energy. I thought everybody on our offense feeds off that energy, because it’s a lot of fun to be able to go into a hostile environment and have success and do things well.”
At the snap of the ball, Sutton made a double move that left Rhodes in pursuit. Allen found him for the 43-yard gain — and Sutton bounced up from the turf after the tackle.
He held up a finger to his lips, and he turned to face the Minneapolis crowd.
For a player whose game made lots of noise Sunday, he was ready for them to be quiet.