Browns’ defense dominates Vikings in 14-7 victory

The Vikings went 75 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the game for a 7-0 lead, but couldn’t score again. They never even made it into the red zone the rest of the game.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Stefanski is known for his offense but it was the Cleveland defense that really put on a show in his return to Minnesota.

The Browns shut down what had been a potent Vikings offense in a 14-7 victory Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Stefanski, Cleveland’s head coach, faced the Vikings for the first time since he was an assistant for them from 2006-19, finishing up as offensive coordinator.

The Vikings went 75 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the game for a 7-0 lead, but couldn’t score again. They never even made it into the red zone the rest of the game.

“They’ve got a really good team,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’re very stout defensively.”

The deepest Vikings possession after their first-possession score was to the Cleveland 26 with three seconds left in the game. But on third-and-4, Kirk Cousins’ pass harmlessly hit the turf near the goal line, and that was the game.


While the Browns raised their record to 1-3, the Vikings are off to a 1-3 start for the second straight year. Nevertheless, Zimmer remains confident.

“I firmly believe that this is a good football team,” he said. “Obviously, we can move the ball, obviously we didn’t very well (Sunday), and defensively when we’re playing good we’re pretty darn good.”

The Vikings, who entered the game third in the NFL in total offense, certainly looked good at the start. They took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards to take a 7-0 lead on Cousins’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson.

But that was mostly it for Vikings offensive highlights on Sunday. They finished with 255 yards of total offense after averaging 425 yards in the first three games.

The Browns had 327 yards but still sputtered plenty on offense. Cleveland did take the lead for good at 8-7 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt with 1:16 left in the first half before getting a 48-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin with two seconds remaining in the first half and a 53-yarder by McLaughlin with 6:16 left in the game.

“Certainly a frustrating loss,” Cousins said. “Didn’t put enough points on the board. Started fast, had a great first drive but then didn’t do enough the rest of the game. Disappointing when we’re at home to not do more.”

Cousins didn’t have much to say about why the Browns shut down Minnesota’s offense, saying it “was a different reason for each drive.” Jefferson said the Vikings offense “just didn’t execute the way we wanted to.” And Zimmer said the Browns, who had two sacks and bothered Cousins all game, “started pressuring a little bit more.”

Zimmer had a lot less to say when talking about Stefanski. Asked what it was like going against him and to describe his interaction with him before and after the game, all Zimmer said was, “Typical.”


“What a great performance,” Stefanski said of the Browns’ defense. “We settled in there after that first drive and played outstanding on the defensive side of the ball.”

Cousins went 6 for 6 passing for 59 yards and the touchdown on the first drive but was just 14 of 32 the rest of the way to finish 20 of 38 for 203 yards. He also threw his first interception of the season.

Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield completed 15 of 33 passes for 155 yards and at 59.6 had an even lower passer rating than Cousins’ 66.0. But Mayfield was helped by a strong running attack while the Vikings didn’t do much on the ground.

The Browns rolled up 184 yards rushing to just 64 for Minnesota. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had just nine carries for 34 yards after missing one game due to an ankle injury. Cook was limping at one point in the second half and was in and out of the lineup.

“I don’t think that it was an issue,” Zimmer said. “He came out of the game one time a little gimpy. We took him out for a while, then he said he was good.”

The Browns got 100 yards rushing from Nick Chubb and 69 from Hunt, including a 33-yard scamper that helped set up McLaughlin’s first field goal. That came when the Browns faced third-and-20 at their 26 with 36 seconds in the half and seemed content to run out the clock with Minnesota out of timeouts.

“I’m disgusted about that,” Zimmer said.

Defensive end Everson Griffen said the Vikings were expecting a pass.


“They hit us good,” Griffen said. “We just got to figure out how … to stop the run. I think 184 yards, that’s way too much rushing yards against us.”

Other mistakes also hurt the Vikings. On fourth-and-goal at the Minnesota 2 shortly before Hunt’s touchdown, Mayfield threw an incompletion but the Browns got a first down on a holding call against linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The Vikings had a delay-of-game penalty when Cleveland was attempting the extra point that followed Hunt’s touchdown. The Browns elected to go for a two-point conversion when the ball was moved from the 2 to the 1, and Mayfield found tight end Andy Janovich for the conversion. That gave the Browns the lead for good at 8-7, and their defense made it stand up.

“Did we get pushed around today?” Zimmer said. “Probably.”

What To Read Next
Get Local