Wow, who saw that coming?
How in the heck did the Bills, a team left for dead after two lackluster performances to open the 2018 season, pull off the biggest upset of the year?
In the latest edition of the Buffalo Rumblings podcast, host John Boccacino is joined by co-host Anthony Marino to break down the win, which featured a poised Josh Allen performing well in a hostile environment, and a defense that performed like Bills’ fans hoped it would when the season began.
Well, since every single Buffalo Bills fan expected their team to head into Minnesota and pull off the shocking upset, there’s not much to discuss in our recap podcast...okay, only the most optimistic of Bills fans gave this team a chance to earn its first win against the Vikings, a team with legitimate hopes of winning the Super Bowl.
Our podcasting duo discussed Josh Allen’s poise and maturity in guiding the Bills to a win, as Allen beat the Vikings with his strong arm and his legs. Allen completed 15 of 22 passes for 196 yards with one passing touchdown, and added 39 rushing yards on 10 carries with a pair of TD runs for Buffalo, which entered as a 16.5-point underdog.
How did the Bills stun the Vikings? With consistent quarterbacking play, a persistent ground game led by Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy that accumulated 89 yards on 28 carries, and an opportunistic defense that returned to its 2017 form of forcing turnovers and flipping the field.
Allen scampered 10 yards and dove into the end zone for a touchdown on Buffalo’s opening drive, giving the Bills the lead for the first time this year. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
A pair of big plays certainly helped the Bills cause: the first, a nifty 26-yard touchdown pass to Jason Croom on a play where Allen faked a handoff to Ivory up the middle and faked a screen pass to the right flat to Murphy before hitting a wide-open Croom on a wheel route for a TD and a 17-0 lead.
Aside from Allen’s incredible hurdle over Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr, the other big play, which showcased both Allen’s mobility and the creativity of Brian Daboll’s offense, set up Buffalo’s third touchdown. On a play-action pass, Allen faked to Ivory, who then slipped out of the backfield into the middle of the field. Allen, who was flushed out of the pocket, kept the play alive long enough to spot Ivory, whose catch and run set Buffalo up at the Minnesota six-yard line.
While the offense struck early and often for 17 first-quarter points en route to a 27-0 halftime lead, the defense limited Minnesota to only 46 first-half yards, forcing two fumbles that led to 10 points.
The defense attacked and flew over the field all day long, confusing quarterback Kirk Cousins while bottling up the high-flying Vikings offense. The pass rush took a huge step forward, sparked by Jerry Hughes, who registered 15 pressures according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That figure represents the most pressures in a game over the last three seasons.
Linebacker Matt Milano also stood out on defense, enjoying one of the finest games of his young career. Milano finished with a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception, becoming the first member of the Bills to accomplish that feat since Troy Vincent in 2004.
All-told, it was an inspiring bounce-back effort from a Bills team that just one week ago was a national embarrassment following the sudden retirement of starting cornerback Vontae Davis at halftime of a 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Ryan Lewis also stood out for their outstanding play, limiting Minnesota’s dynamic wide receiver tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen — who ran wild against the Packers for a combined 21 catches for 259 and three touchdowns — to 22 yards on six catches in the first half.
Needless to say, our podcasters had lots of positives to discuss following Buffalo’s first win of the year. Check out our Buffalo Rumblings podcast for our thoughts on what changed from the first two weeks, and what needs to happen for the Bills to continue their upward trend.
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