Broncos 4 downs: Courtland Sutton might want to keep his Pro Bowl week free after his catch sank the Vikings’ ship


Initial thoughts from the Broncos-Vikings game during Week 11 at Empower Field at Mile High:

1. Sutton’s the man: Courtland Sutton, piece of friendly advice: You might want to keep Pro Bowl week free.

The veteran receiver’s leaping, game-winning catch with 1:03 left in the game didn’t just salvage the Broncos’ fourth win in a row — it kept Denver’s from-outta-nowhere playoff hopes alive.

Sutton’s well-timed jump — his Mile-High Hop — was over Mehki Blackmon, a USC draftee who played for the CU Buffs from 2018 to 2021. Sutton’s got five inches on the 5-foot-11 Blackmon, and quarterback Russell Wilson liked his odds on a jump ball in the end zone. And why wouldn’t he, after that Sutton grab in Buffalo last week?

Sutton’s fifth straight game with a touchdown catch is the first such streak for the club since Julius Thomas in 2014 and is two games off the team record of seven straight, set by Riley Odoms in 1973.

2. Lack of explosions hurt: The trouble with Sean Payton’s formula on offense — run it, no shame in checking down if there’s nothing there — is it takes time to build up any steam. Time and patience. The Vikes’ D is legit, granted, but the Broncos’ inability to break a big one for much of the evening was more than a little disconcerting. At the start of the fourth stanza, Denver had managed just four “explosive” plays — runs of 10 or more yards, throws of 15 or more yards — while Minnesota had piled up seven, including four through the air.

3. Oh, no, Kareem. Not again!: It was nice seeing you again, Kareem Jackson. Alas, looks as if we may not see you for a bit after this one. The slobber-knocking hit on Vikings QB Josh Dobbs during Minnesota’s first drive got … let’s just say .. worse with just about every camera angle. The veteran safety, in his first appearance after a two-game suspension for questionable hits, appeared to launch himself, helmet-first, at the chin of the signal-caller. That’s a no-no. And it’s hard to imagine the league office turning a blind eye to that one.

4. Wade in the house (for the Vikes): It’s wasn’t Coach Prime-level celebrity spotting (although Angela Kinsey of “The Office” fame was in the house), but former Broncos coach Wade Phillips, 76 years young, was spotted in the bowels of Empower Field before the game. Only he was here for the visitors this time, as son Wes is Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. Wade, son of Bum Phillips, is currently the head and general manager of the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks, a position announced in July 2022. Wade was 16-16 in two seasons as Broncos coach from ’93 to ’94 and served as defensive coordinator for the Orange & Blue’s Super Bowl 50 champs back in ’15.

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