EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings looked bad, but might have proven exactly how good they really are by surviving an ugly game heading into what should be the much more challenging second half of the season.
"It was a good team win (Sunday)," head coach Mike Zimmer said after the 33-16 victory over the Browns at Twickenham Stadium in London. "We started out a little slow, and it wasn't the way we anticipated coming out. But our guys fought and battled and I thought our offense had some great drives."
The Vikings trailed 6-0 early after Case Keenum had a tipped pass intercepted. The Browns needed two plays to notch a 26-yard touchdown run and led at the half for the first time all season. But the Vikings proved too strong for a Browns team that has lost 26 of its past 27 games.
"Everybody is going to have games like this," safety Harrison Smith said. "You have to be able to win them."
The Vikings head into the bye week at 6-2 and comfortably atop the NFC North. They need the rest, particularly on the offensive line, which has gone from biggest weakness last season to one of the top strengths this year. Left guard Nick Easton has missed the past three games because of a calf injury, while right tackle Mike Remmers left Sunday's game early in the first quarter because of a concussion. Both players are expected back when the Vikings resume play at Washington on Nov. 12.
The Vikings have beaten six teams with a combined 17-24 record. After the bye week, they'll play four of five on the road, while their only home game is against the 5-2 Rams.
Although quarterback Case Keenum is 4-2 as a starter subbing for Sam Bradford, the Vikings will be using the bye week to give much thought to their quarterback situation.
They'll practice twice during the bye. The Wednesday after the bye, they'll have to make a decision on whether to activate Teddy Bridgewater or keep him on PUP for the rest of the season.
Bridgewater has not played since the third preseason game of the 2016 season. He dislocated his left knee, tearing multiple ligaments in a horrific injury in practice a couple days after that game. He returned to practice two weeks ago.
There's also the possibility, according to Zimmer, that Bradford's injured left knee could allow him to return shortly. He hasn't played since Oct. 9 at Chicago. When it was obvious that he couldn't move on the injured knee, he was pulled shortly before halftime.
When asked if he'll have to choose a starter among his three quarterbacks, Zimmer said, "I don't know that yet. We'll sit down and we'll evaluate everything. Case has done an unbelievable job. He's done what we've asked him to do; he's come out and kept things rolling. We'll figure it out as we go. We'll see; I hope I have to make a decision."
The BBC named receiver Adam Thielen the "Man of the Match" for catching five balls for 98 yards and a touchdown in the 33-16 win over the Browns at Twickenham Stadium in London.
"That's pretty cool," Thielen said.
Of course, it helped that Thielen also got one of the loudest cheers of the day when his touchdown celebration was one of those running double-knee slides that soccer players do after they score.
"I always played FIFA and stuff like that growing up, and seeing those guys celebrate, I kind of got inspiration from that," said Thielen, sporting an Arsenal jersey he bought while attending Saturday night's match against Swansea City. "Supposedly, I stole it. Kyle (tight end Kyle Rudolph) did it in practice the other day and I must have saw it and wanted to do it, too, but I beat him to the punch, I guess."
In the third quarter, Thielen drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone, setting up a touchdown for a 23-16 lead on the next play.
Quarterback Case Keenum laughed about the interference penalty, suggesting that Thielen might have been acting a little.
"Well, (Thielen) had his soccer celebration going, so maybe he had to work on his flop, too," Keenum said.
Defensive end Everson Griffen was a hit with the British media on Friday and after the game on Sunday. He went on about how much he loves London and got everyone laughing by making funny noises to describe how the TV in his hotel room appeared from a compartment at the push of a button.
But Griffen probably didn't make any friends when asked whether he thinks a London-based NFL franchise will ever work.
"Honestly and truthfully, I don't think you can have a team here," Griffen said. "That's not up to me. I don't make big bucks to make decisions like that. But having a team here, me, I don't think they could."
The difficult travel to and from the U.S., obviously, is the biggest logistical problem facing a London-based team.
Many Vikings, including head coach Mike Zimmer, also said the NFL needs a better field for this international series. Several players slipped during the game.
NOTES: RT Mike Remmers suffered a concussion on the first series of the game and didn't return. He was replaced by Rashod Hill, who had a holding penalty but otherwise held his own. ... DE Everson Griffen tied the franchise record with a sack in eight consecutive games. He now has 10 sacks on the season. He is tied with Jim Marshall (1969) and Jared Allen (2011). ... LG Nick Easton was inactive despite running some first-team reps in Friday's practice. The Vikings were wise to hold him out of his third straight game. This gives him the bye week as extra time to rest his calf injury. Rookie Danny Isadora got his first career start in place of Easton. ... WR Stefon Diggs, who had missed the past two games because of a groin injury, returned to the starting lineup on Sunday. He caught only four passes for 27 yards, but helped divert some attention away from Adam Thielen. ... WR Adam Thielen caught five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. He is the only player in the league with at least five catches in every game this season. ... RB Jerick McKinnon had 20 touches for 122 yards and a touchdown. He had 14 carries for 50 yards and a 1-yard score.
REPORT CARD VS. BROWNS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C - Case Keenum helped give the Browns their first halftime lead of the season when he was intercepted off a tipped pass on the first drive of the game. The Browns turned it into a 6-0 lead two plays later. Keenum and the screen game struggled in the first half as the Browns batted down multiple passes. The second half was much better as the Vikings finally asserted control of the game. Keenum finished with an 88.1 passer rating with two touchdowns and the one interception. Receiver Adam Thielen was the player of the game with five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: D - The Vikings couldn't force their will against a Browns defense that's pretty stout against the run. After rushing for 113 yards a week ago, Latavius Murray was held to 39 yards on 19 carries (2.1). The Vikings rushed for only 88 yards on 34 carries (2.6). Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur did come up with a solid play-call and design that enabled running back Jerick McKinnon to take a jet sweep and score from the 1-yard line.
--PASS DEFENSE: B - The Vikings didn't intercept rookie DeShone Kizer. And they didn't sack him until the closing minutes of the game. So they didn't do what everyone expected, which was destroy Joe Thomas' backup at left tackle (Spencer Drango) and add to Kizer's interception total of 11. The Vikings gave up two 38-yard passes on a drive that put them down 13-9 in the second quarter. But Kizer finished with a 68.1 passer rating because he and the Browns couldn't generate much of anything in the second half.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C - The Browns' first carry of the game was a 26-yard touchdown by Isiah Crowell on the Browns' second offensive snap of the game. Crowell finished with 64 yards on just 11 carries (5.8), but his first carry of the second half resulted in a fumble forced by defensive end Danielle Hunter. The Browns ran for 115 yards on 22 carries, but managed only 89 yards on their final 21 carries.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: D - Kicker Kai Forbath missed yet another PAT and the kick coverage unit gave up a 71-yard return that could have been a serious shift in momentum had the Browns not stalled out offensively and missed a 35-yard field goal. Punter Ryan Quigley punted six times with only a 35-yard net.
--COACHING: C - The Vikings were ripe for a loss. Fortunately, they played a Browns team that appears incapable to winning. The offense started off stagnant, while the defense appeared to be a step slow. In a blink, the Vikings were down 6-0 thanks to an interception and poor run defense that allowed a 26-yard touchdown jaunt right up the middle. Fortunately for the Vikings, the coaches and the team settled in and played a much better second half, outscoring the Browns 21-3 for a victory that wasn't as comfortable as the final score indicates.