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Kirk Cousins leads 20-point halftime comeback as Vikings beat Broncos

Captain Kirk might now be known as Captain Comeback after the Minnesota Vikings’ miraculous rally on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

Trailing by a stunning 20-0 score at halftime, the Vikings punted on their first four possessions, lost two straight fumbles and punted once more for good measure in an utterly feckless first half.

Kirk Cousins wasn’t the biggest reason for the deficit, completing 11 of his first 12 passes, but they were for a mere 58 yards. Cousins also was responsible for one of those fumbles, losing it on a sack that led to a Broncos’ field goal and that 20-point edge.

But Cousins and the Vikings were far from dead. As if they were ripped to shreds during a halftime locker-room speech, they came out inspired in the second half, scoring touchdowns on four straight possessions in a thrilling 27-23 victory that ran their record to 8-3 on the season.

Denver fell to 3-7, with six of those losses by eight points or fewer. The Broncos have led in the fourth quarter four times in those losses.

It was tied for the fourth-biggest comeback in Vikings franchise history. In 1977, Minnesota erased a 24-point deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

How the comeback got started

To kick-start the comeback Sunday, Cousins hit rookie Irv Smith on a 10-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 20-7, but a Broncos field goal made it 23-7 early in the fourth quarter. After a Dalvin Cook rushing score made it 23-13 (with a missed two-point conversion), Cousins led an 18-play, 75-yard drive for another passing score — this time to Stefon Diggs on a 54-yard beauty.

The Broncos oddly chose to run the ball on third-and-7 from the Minnesota 29-yard line. Even stranger: They handed it to their No. 3 back, DeVontae Booker, who gained only four yards. The subsequent field-goal attempt — ball don’t lie for the passive coaching? — missed.

Cousins struck again. He hit his main tight end, Kyle Rudolph, for a 32-yard touchdown to give Minnesota the lead for the first time in the game, 27-23.

Denver was not done, though. Replacement QB Brandon Allen led a game drive that included three fourth-down conversions and put the Broncos on the doorstep of the end zone. But Allen’s three throws into the end zone for what would have been the possible game-winning scores all fell incomplete.

Cousins finished the game 29-of-35 passing for 319 yards, three TDs and no picks. He now has a 21-3 TD-INT ratio on the season, has completed more than 70 percent of his passes on the season and might be getting more MVP love if not for the heroics of Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.

Amazingly, it’s only the second biggest comeback engineered by Cousins. He rallied the Washington Redskins back from down 24 points in 2015.

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