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Three Keys Unlocked: Denver 23, Minnesota 20


DENVER -- **It took a thunderous pass rush to finish off the Vikings, but what else happened to key the Broncos' 23-20 win? Let's take a look back at the three keys to find out:


Until 10:01 remained in the game, the Broncos did this. At that moment, Peterson had just 34 yards on 14 carries, and the Broncos had done a brilliant job at swarming him, with Vance Walker and Sylvester Williams consistently winning their one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage.

But Williams was pushed out of the way by Joe Berger on the fourth-and-1, and with no linebackers or safeties in range to clean up, Peterson took off with the 48-yard run that brought the Vikings back within three points and changed the complexion of the fourth quarter.

Even in the afterglow of the win, Denver's defenders were shaken by Peterson's sprint.


"We're going to be sick [about it]," said Marshall, who put the blame on his shoulders.

"I was misaligned, first of all. It was fourth-and-1. I'm thinking, 'OK, he's going to run to this side,' I didn't get in my right gap, and we all didn't shed [blockers] get to the ball. I take the brunt of that, because I was out of my alignment."

But that was Peterson's only explosion. He finished below the 100-yard mark that has usually been the barometer of Vikings success, particularly since 2012. And the next time he got the football, the Broncos corralled him.

"It's always about the next play. You don't want to think about the last play too much," Marshall said. "You want to learn from it -- okay, well, I got beat on man here, I got beat here, this happened -- but learn from it and immediately move on to the next play, because if you focus on the last play, you're definitely going to get beat on the next play."



For the most part, the re-shuffled offensive line succeeded at this. Manning was sacked twice, including one on an A-gap blitz, but had enough time to get set and throw as the Broncos emphasized the pistol formation for a second consecutive week.

In the second half, the Broncos made greater use of two-tight end formations and also used some pistol alignments with James Casey at fullback next to Manning to give him more time to throw. But the yeoman's work was done up front, particularly by tackles Ryan Harris and Michael Schofield, who responded to their expanded roles with solid play throughout the game.

"Hopefully Ty [Sambrailo] gets back and we get back to work this week. No. 79 [Schofield] has some NFL snaps under his belt. I mean, that was [his first] snap this year. Michael will grow from what happened today and we'll go from there, but hopefully Ty will be back and ready to go," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.



For a while, it looked like the biggest drive of the game would be the Broncos' eight-play, 80-yard march to open the second half. That drive to Owen Daniels' 1-yard touchdown reception pushed the Broncos' lead back to 20-10 and forced the Vikings to stay in comeback mode.

But the offense couldn't build on that, and stalled, allowing the Vikings a window to get back in the game -- and to re-establish field position. However, Minnesota remained reliant upon the pass, and the Broncos continued to tee off, finishing with seven sacks -- including the final one that allowed the Broncos to perpetuate their recent turnover trend.

Minnesota had its chances, but after its first possession, never ran an offensive snap with the game tied. That status, coupled with the Broncos' pass rush, was enough to knock the Vikings off-kilter and helped the Broncos do just enough to get past them.

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