MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — The Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings were tied at 24 after three quarters of play from Mall of America Field at the H.H.H. Metrodome.
Quarterback Christian Ponder scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, and brought the Minnesota Vikings even with the Cleveland Browns, 24-24, with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter.
Ponder and the Vikings faced a third-and-goal from the Browns’ eight-yard line, when his offensive line opened up a hole in the left side of the defensive line, and allowed the third-year signal-caller to rush for the score.
The Vikings’ three-play, nine-yard scoring drive was set up by a Browns turnover.
On second-and-21 from the Browns’ own five-yard line, quarterback Brian Hoyer dropped back into the end zone and was hit on the throw intended for wide receiver Greg Little. Linebacker Erin Henderson caught the interception and returned it nine yards.
Courtesy of a 17-point second quarter, the Browns held a 24-17 lead over the Vikings at halftime.
Minnesota cut the deficit to seven points when kicker Blair Walsh converted a 43-yard field goal attempt with less than two minutes to play before the half, but it was the Browns’ special teams that proved to be the difference in the half.
Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning extended the Browns’ lead over the Vikings to 10 points, 24-14, with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron at the 3:39 mark of the second quarter.
Initially, the Browns lined up to kick a field goal, but Lanning got the ball from long-snapper Christian Yount, threw the ball to Cameron on the right side of the formation and watched as the third-year tight end ran to the pylon for the score.
The Browns’ scoring drive, which travelled 38 yards in six plays, was set up by a Vikings turnover.
On second-and-six from Minnesota’s 31-yard line, Ponder threw a pass intended for wide receiver Jerome Simpson, but Browns linebacker Craig Robertson tipped it up in the air, and safety T.J. Ward came up with the interception.
Ward returned the interception 13 yards.
Kicker Billy Cundiff’s 38-yard field goal put the Browns in front of the Vikings, 17-14, with 6:07 to play in the first half. Cundiff’s kick capped off a nine-play, 55-yard drive that took 4:05 off the second-quarter clock, and featured a trick play on special teams.
With the Browns backed up at their own 38-yard line and facing a fourth-and-one, reserve safety Josh Aubrey took the direct snap from Yount and ran up the middle for a gain of 34 yards.
Ponder’s six-yard touchdown run drew the Vikings even with the Browns at 14-14 with 10:12 to play in the second quarter. Ponder took the snap in the Shotgun formation, called his own number and followed center John Sullivan into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Ponder’s 37-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was the longest play of the Vikings’ nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
Hoyer threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cameron and put the Browns in front of the Vikings, 14-7, with 14:55 to play in the first half.
After a one-yard loss on the final play of the first quarter, Hoyer took the snap on second-and-11, and led Cameron, who was in front a Vikings defender on a drag route across the middle of the field, to the far sideline for the score.
Earlier in the drive, Hoyer completed a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Josh Gordon on a slip screen. After Gordon caught the ball near the line of scrimmage, he fought his way through several Vikings defenders before being driven out of bounds.
Gordon also took an end-around pitch and rushed for 22 yards with center Alex Mack and left guard John Greco serving as lead blockers on the play.
The Browns and Vikings were tied at 7-7 after one quarter of play.
On their second drive of the game against the Minnesota, Hoyer threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Gordon, which tied the game at 7-7 with 4:42 left to play in the first quarter. The Browns marched 68 yards in just six plays in 2:13.
Hoyer completed three of his four pass attempts on the drive for 67 yards, including a nine-yarder to wide receiver Davone Bess and an 11-yard throw to Cameron on third-and-10 from the Browns’ 42-yard line.
With a two-yard touchdown run behind Sullivan, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson put the Vikings in front of the Browns, 7-0, with 9:13 remaining in the first quarter. Peterson capped off an 11-play, 80-yard drive in which he carried seven times for 28 yards.
Ponder completed three of his four pass attempts for 52 yards, including throws of 27 and 20 yards to wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright, respectively.
Minnesota converted all three of the their third downs on the drive, including the 20-yard pass from Ponder to Wright.
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