London proves to be happy hunting ground for the Vikings once again as they overpowered an surging Browns offense.
Browns coach Hue Jackson was on the staff for the London Monarchs when they won the inaugural World Bowl back in 1991, but his return to the capital ended in the familiar feeling of defeat as Cleveland dropped to 0-8 on the season.
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns while Adam Thielen had five catches for 98 yards and a score, though this was hardly a dominant performance from a Minnesota team who, at 6-2, have designs on the play-offs and the dream of playing in the Super Bowl in their home stadium come February.
The early signs were not encouraging as Keenum opened up like he was still playing last year’s game for the Los Angeles Rams.
The quarterback threw four interceptions in a loss to the New York Giants here 12 months ago, costing him his starting job, and he was picked off again on the Vikings’ opening possession by Joe Schobert.
Two plays later, the Browns made him pay as Isaiah Crowell ran in virtually untouched from 26 yards to put Cleveland 6-0 up.
But these Browns have been winless for a reason, and quickly opened the door for a Minnesota response as punt returner Bryce Treggs fumbled a fair catch to give the Vikings prime field position.
Minnesota laboured to capitalise on the gift, settling for a field goal after Eric Wilson’s 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness set them back. It would be that sort of afternoon. Penalties and mistakes made for a disjointed contest.
The Vikings continued to grind and took their first lead of the game with 2:55 left in the half when Keenum threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Thielen, who celebrated his first score of the season with a soccer-style knee slide.
But having worked so hard to get the lead, Minnesota handed it immediately back.
DeShone Kizer found first Ricardo Louis and then Crowell for 38 yards each, carrying Cleveland all the way to the six-yard line in the space of two plays.
When Kizer carried it in from a yard moments later, the rookie quarterback let out half a season’s worth of frustration as he celebrated all the way down the Twickenham sideline.
Kai Forbath’s second field goal of the game cut the deficit to 13-12, but the Browns headed to the locker rooms with their first half-time lead of the season.
The advantage lasted barely 90 seconds of the third quarter as Crowell fumbled and Forbath split the uprights from 43 yards.
The Browns were next to score, with Zane Gonzalez’s 23-yard field goal putting them back in front, but it was scant reward for two trips to the red zone and they would be made to pay.
The Vikings finally found their groove late on, aided by needless penalties from the Cleveland secondary. After Briean Boddy-Calhoun was called for pass interference in the end zone, Jerick McKinnon punched it in from one yard and added the two-point conversion to put Minnesota up by a touchdown.
It would only get worse for the Browns on Minnesota’s next drive as penalties on Jamar Taylor and Boddy-Calhoun cost them a combined 33 yards, and Keenum found Kyle Rudolph for a deftly-finished four-yard touchdown.
With a 14-point lead and 10 minutes to go, many in the 74,237-strong Twickenham crowd had seen enough and headed to the exits as another Forbath field goal brought the curtain down on the 10th season of NFL games in London.