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Browns smother Vikings offense, puts Minnesota back on the brink

The Browns won with a game plan reserved for Mike Zimmer's squad.
Mike Zimmer

The Minnesota Vikings came into Sunday as one of the best offenses in the league. But with a game plan that's usually reserved for Mike Zimmer's squad, Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns shut it down in a 14-7 loss.

The Vikings started the game with a 14-play drive that took up half of the first quarter. The balanced march ended when Kirk Cousins found Justin Jefferson for his 100th touchdown as a Viking and gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead.

But even with the fast start, the offense struggled against the Browns' defense. Minnesota totaled just 255 yards of offense on the afternoon and Cousins was under constant pressure despite being sacked just twice on the afternoon.

The defense held up against the Browns but with Cleveland holding the ball for 35 minutes on the afternoon, it eventually broke after Eric Kendricks was called for a holding penalty on fourth-and-goal.

Kareem Hunt's one-yard touchdown plunge put Cleveland on the board but a miscommunication on the extra point forced Sheldon Richardson to call a timeout the Vikings didn't have. The penalty convinced the Browns to go for two, and Baker Mayfield found Andy Janovich to give Cleveland an 8-7 lead.

Chase McLaughlin's 48-yard field goal at the end of the half sent the Vikings into the half down 11-7 and the second half started on a rough note when Dalvin Cook aggravated his ankle injury.

The injury combined with Cleveland's 184 rushing yards neutralized the Vikings' offense and put them into a 14-7 hole on McLaughlin's second field goal of the game.

The Vikings' offense continued to struggle including Cousins' first interception in his last 226 pass attempts. Although Cook returned to the game late, the running game went out the window on the final drive.

With three seconds remaining, Cousins' last-second heave was knocked to the ground and the Browns sent the Vikings to 1-3.

The loss reinstates many of the concerns that existed prior to last week's victory over Seattle. With Dan Campbell and the Lions visiting U.S. Bank Stadium next week, the Vikings' will have another must-win situation as they look to save their season.

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