Case Keenum had one of the more miserable performances of his career the last time he played a game at Twickenham Stadium. That was not the case on Sunday.
Keenum threw for two touchdowns and Kai Forbath made four field goals as the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Cleveland Browns 33-16 in the last of four games held this season in Britain.
Adam Thielen had five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown for the NFC North-leading Vikings (6-2), who trailed 13-12 at halftime — the first time the Browns, 0-8 for the second consecutive year, claimed a mid-game lead this season.
Keenum, who threw four interceptions while with the Los Angeles Rams a year ago, helped pull the Vikings out of their first-half rut. After an eight-play drive that, at 23-16, restored Minnesota’s lead, he oversaw a nine-play drive aided by 43 yards in defensive penalties that left the outcome no longer in doubt.
“We just weren’t executing (in the first half),” said Keenum, who finished 27 for 43 for 288 yards and also threw an interception. “I think we made a few good plays on first and second down that kept drives going in the second half, and obviously, converting on third downs on scoring drives.”
Cleveland scored first, taking a 6-0 lead on just its second play from scrimmage before kicker Zane Gonzalez’s missed extra point. Middle linebacker Joe Schobert’s interception return to the Vikings’ 37-yard line led to a 26-yard touchdown run by running back Isaiah Crowell.
A 1-yard run by rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer with 40 seconds remaining in the first half helped overcome Forbath’s first field goal and an 18-yard touchdown reception by Thielen to push Cleveland’s lead to 13-9.
Forbath ended the half with a 34-yard attempt to make it 13-12, then scored first in the third quarter when a fumble by Crowell set up a 43-yard attempt.
Although Gonzalez’s 23-yard field goal restored the Browns’ lead at 16-15 with 5:34 remaining in the quarter, the Vikings scored 18 unanswered points: A 1-yard touchdown run by running back Jerrick McKinnon — and McKinnon’s 2-point conversion — as well as a 5-yard touchdown reception by tight end Kyle Rudolph and, with 1:14 remaining, Forbath’s final field goal.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Kizer, who entered the game with a league-high 11 interceptions, did not throw one for the first time this season. He completed 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards and ran five times for 18 yards and the touchdown.
“We walked into halftime with the lead, with momentum, and with the ball coming back to us,” Kizer said. “We tasted that same taste that we had after four victories in preseason. But this is a four-quarter game. This is a game where you’ve got to go out there and expect that the team who’s down is going to come back with a vengeance, and they’re going to make a push … and unfortunately, as an offense, we didn’t execute the way we should in the second half.”
DRANGO’S TURN: Spencer Drango started at left tackle, marking the first time since Dec. 31, 2006 that someone other than Joe Thomas started at the position.
Thomas tore his left triceps in the Browns’ overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans last week, ending a streak of 167 career starts — each one since he was taken No. 3 overall by the Browns in 2007. Thomas had never missed a snap before last Sunday.
STARTERS INJURED: Vikings right tackle Mike Remmers left after sustaining a concussion on the second drive and was replaced by Rashod Hill. Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return, and running back Duke Johnson exited late and was evaluated for a concussion, but was cleared.
Cleveland was missing three starters due to injury, including top overall draft pick Myles Garrett (concussion).
LONDON LIMIT: Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international, said the league will take steps toward finalizing next year’s international schedule later this week, but expanding beyond four games at this point remains unlikely.
“I think we believe that the fan growth metrics are very positive, and I don’t think we’ll have to do five or six,” Waller said.
The NFL has a 10-year contract to begin playing games at the stadium English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur is currently constructing next year.
Vikings: Could have QB Teddy Bridgewater back from a knee injury sustained in the summer of 2016 when they visit the Washington Redskins on Nov. 12 after a bye.
Browns: Will face the Detroit Lions on Nov. 12 after a bye. They have not defeated Detroit on the road since 1983.
Source: Associated Press