Both teams traded punts in the first quarter. Eddie Yarbrough and Jerry Hughes both had drive-killing sacks, while on the offensive side of the ball, some early yards earned from three completions to Sammy Watkins were cancelled out by a holding call and a sack. Tyrod Taylor came up with a bit of a limp from that sack, but completed the drive and stayed in for the remainder of the first string’s time.
LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch from this meaningless game, but Jonathan Williams and Mike Tolbert had no problem running in his stead. They combined on 8 carries for 66 yards, continuously bursting to the second level. The starters came off the field at the beginning of the second quarter, finishing their final drive by kicking a field goal.
The Vikings equalized later in the second quarter, with backup quarterback Case Keenum finding rookie Stacy Coley over the middle for a long completion. A penalty on the play pushed them back a bit, but they were still able to convert three points of their own.
In the second half, the Vikings strung together a few good drives to take a 17-3 lead on a C.J. Ham rushing touchdown and a Taylor Heinicke passing touchdown. The Bills spun their tires after the departure of the starters, but finally found life in the fourth quarter with the entrance of rookie quarterback Nate Peterman. Using his arm and legs, Peterman drove the offense down the field and scored a touchdown. That would be the only time the Bills found the endzone tonight, however, as three drives fizzled on failed fourth down conversions. The two minute drill at the end of the game showed some promise, but Peterman was ultimately done in by lousy blocking from his offensive line and a mistimed snap that flew behind him on fourth down. Finishing 13/25 for 112 yards and a touchdown (plus 4 scrambles for 26 yards), Peterman didn’t get a perfect grade in his debut, but elevated the 3rd string offense to make the game competitive after he entered.
DE Eddie Yarbrough
Yarbrough finally showed us what had him looking so good in training camp practices. It’s his refined technique. Yarbrough was winning with rips, spin moves, and bull rushes against Minnesota’s right tackles all night. He added a pair of quarterback hits in the second quarter, with one nearly leading to another sack.
WR Sammy Watkins
In case anyone had any lingering doubts about Buffalo’s star receiver, he answered the call with three straight receptions to begin the game. Watkins finished with 39 yards on four receptions, but what stood out was his clean route running, consistently earning him space.
S Trae Elston and S Joe Powell
Elston showed some fire in Buffalo’s secondary, delivering hard hits to break up a couple of passes. Powell showed off his hand-foot coordination, snagging an interception and getting both feet inbounds near the sideline.
OT Seantrel Henderson
Stepping into Cordy Glenn’s shoes is a challenging burden. When Henderson had to do it after scarcely playing during the previous season, he was going to look rusty. He struggled against Minnesota’s pass rushers, giving up a lot of pressure on Taylor.
RB Taiwan Jones
Jones made a clear mental mistake on special teams when he didn’t notice the returner waving for a fair catch and tackled him anyway. In the fourth quarter, with the Bills trailing 17-10, Jones was open on a fourth down conversion attempt in the red zone, but he let the pass slip through his hands.
QB T.J. Yates
Buffalo’s backup bumbled his way through the third quarter, generally finding the open receiver but struggling to deliver the ball with accuracy. He finished 6 of 11 for only 48 yards and no touchdowns during the most moribund stretch of the game for the Bills offense.
Taylor briefly visited the trainers’ tent following the aforementioned sack, but the soreness didn’t keep him from returning to the game and showing off his crazy athleticism in escaping a sack on the next drive.
Rookie linebacker Tanner Vallejo left the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. He did not return to the game.