Late Brandon McManus field goal lifts Denver Broncos past Minnesota Vikings

By Dennis Georgatos, The Sports Xchange   |   Oct. 5, 2015 at 1:02 AM
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DENVER -- Peyton Manning put the Denver Broncos in position to win, and then the defense secured it.

Brandon McManus kicked three field goals, including a 39-yarder with 1:51 remaining, and the Broncos hung on to beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-20 Sunday to remain undefeated.

"You're going to play in a lot of close games football games and you better know how to win those," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "The thing that I love about the football team is I think it has the belief that it's going to find a way."

Manning, shaking off two interceptions, led the Broncos into position for the tie-breaking score with C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman also contributing key runs. Hillman had 103 yards rushing, including a 72-yard touchdown run.

McManus has converted all eight of his field-goal attempts this season, including a 33-yarder and 47-yarder prior to the game winner.

"We're trying to get it down there as close as we can and put us in touchdown position; if not, make it as short a field goal as possible," Manning said. "(McManus) has been outstanding. He is kicking with a lot of confidence. It's great to have him on the team."

Denver, off to a 4-0 start for the seventh time in franchise history and the second time in the last three years, sealed the win when blitzing safety T.J. Ward ended the last-ditch possession of Minnesota (2-2) at midfield by sacking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and forcing a fumble that linebacker Von Miller recovered. Bridgewater, who was sacked seven times, previously extended the drive with an 11-yard run on third-and-10.

"I think they've got some great rushers," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. "We didn't block them good enough to win. We didn't play very well offensively in the first half. I thought we had to get used to the speed of their defense. We didn't start off very good that way."

Up by a field goal at the half, the Broncos gained additional separation when Manning started the third quarter by leading the offense down the field, finishing the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to wide-open tight end Owen Daniels.

But the Vikings came back to pull to within three points again. Facing fourth down and inches, the Vikings gave the ball to Adrian Peterson on a run up the middle. He broke through Denver's bunched-up defense at the line of scrimmage and into the clear for a 48-yard touchdown run cutting the Broncos' lead to 20-17 with 10:01 remaining.

"It just opened up," Peterson said. "(Broncos cornerback Aquib) Talib, he was right in the middle of the field and he was already pursuing in so I just had to cut. He turned his hips but it was too late. I was already gone."

Minnesota tied it at 20-all on Blair Walsh's second field goal, a 33-yarder with 5:11 left to play that was set up by safety Harrison Smith's interception of Manning, the Denver quarterback's second pick of the game. Manning was 17 of 27 for 213 yards.

Linebacker Anthony Barr stepped in front of wide receiver Andre Caldwell to intercept Manning the first time, returning it 32 yards to the Broncos' 27-yard line to set up the touchdown that pulled Minnesota to 13-10 at halftime.

Bridgewater completed successive passes to wide receiver Mike Wallace, the second a 4-yarder in the end zone with 12 seconds left in the second quarter.

Denver scored on the first play after Blair Walsh's 38-yard field goal try wide sailed wide left. With the ball at the Broncos' 28-yard line, Manning pitched the ball to Hillman. Daniels sprung him with a block on the edge and Hillman raced untouched down the left sideline en route to matching the fourth-longest touchdown run in Broncos' history.

NOTES: Broncos LB DeMarcus Ware is the only player in the league with at least one sack in each of the first four games. ... Denver is the only team in the NFL this season yet to allow a point in the first quarter. ... Rookie LT Ty Sambrailo missed the game with a shoulder injury. ... Minnesota was without WR Charles Johnson because of a rib injury. Also held out was S Andrew Sendejo (knee). ... The Vikings were in Denver for the first time since 2007, Adrian Peterson's rookie season.

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