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Vikings 33, Bills 30 (OT): Five things we learned

Some concerning trends continue as the Bills officially start a losing streak

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills have now lost two consecutive games after dropping a confounding, against-all-odds 33-30 overtime decision to the Minnesota Vikings at home in Highmark Stadium. The loss puts the Bills on their third two-game winning streak in as many seasons, and if Buffalo can’t stop the bleeding on some concerning trends, they’ll be in danger of hitting their first three-game skid since Josh Allen’s rookie season in 2018. They’ve also dropped to third place in the AFC East with this loss.

Here are five things we learned from Buffalo’s most recent excruciating loss.

No answer for Justin Jefferson, 3rd & Long scenarios

The Bills played this game without the entirety of their preseason projected starting defensive backfield—Tre’Davious White and Kaiir Elam at cornerback, and Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer at safety—and it showed. The Bills did intercept Kirk Cousins twice, but they had no answer whatsoever for star wideout Justin Jefferson, who hauled in 10 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown.

The best of those receptions came on a 4th & 18 after another clutch Von Miller sack that was later rendered meaningless, as Jefferson used one hand to pry a ball away from both of Cam Lewis’ for a 32-yard catch and conversion. The Bills allowed six Vikings conversions on 3rd & 10 or more yards in this contest—a mind-boggling statistic in its own right—and this one will be remembered for years, even though the Vikings ultimately did not score on that drive.

The Bills need to stop turning the football over

Buffalo saw two Vikings turnovers and raised them four of their own, and all of them were of the killer variety.

  • Holding a 17-10 lead in the second quarter, running back Devin Singletary coughed up the ball at Minnesota’s 27-yard line, with the Vikings recovering and snuffing out a prime scoring opportunity for the Bills.
  • On a 4th & Goal inside the Vikings’ five-yard line, quarterback Josh Allen tried to force a ball into a tight window and cornerback Patrick Peterson stepped into the throwing lane for an easy pick. This was a tough watch, but the most forgivable of the four; all the same, it highlights Buffalo’s continued struggles offensively in the red zone.
  • After an unlikely 4th & Goal stop with under a minute remaining and holding a 27-23 lead, Allen and center Mitch Morse couldn’t complete a simple center-quarterback exchange. The ball fell to the turf, Minnesota recovered in the end zone, and they held a 30-27 lead.
  • Allen rallied for a late field goal to send it to overtime, but after the defense coughed up the lead, he tried to force a ball into tight coverage in the end zone. He and receiver Gabe Davis were not on the same page, and Peterson once again cut into the throwing lane for an easy pick. Ballgame.

This was Buffalo’s second four-turnover game of the season; they’ve had at least one turnover in every game but one this season, and at least two turnovers in five of their nine games. It’s unacceptable at this point, and unlike earlier in the season, it’s now costing them games.

Bills’ second-half woes continue

The Bills had a propensity for burying their opponents after halftime in the first six games of the season, but that script has completely flipped in their last three games. The Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and now Minnesota have combined to outscore the Bills 43-12 after the half, with all 12 of Buffalo’s points coming on Tyler Bass field goals.

This, too, has been killing Buffalo. A 24-7 halftime lead over Green Bay turned into a 27-17 Bills win that never really felt close, but was indeed closer than it needed to be. Buffalo opened up a 14-3 lead on the Jets last weekend, only to get outscored 17-3 the rest of the way to drop a divisional game.

And in this one, the Bills opened up a 27-10 lead on the Vikings in the third quarter, only to watch the Vikings score the next 20 points in the contest—starting with an 81-yard Dalvin Cook touchdown run on the ensuing possession following the Bass field goal. The aforementioned turnover issue is not helping with Buffalo’s scoring output in the second half, but the defense has been severely outmaneuvered by opposing offenses after the half in the last three weeks, as well.

The November doldrums have begun

In September and October under head coach Sean McDermott, the Bills have a combined record of 28-15 (13-7 in September, and 15-8 in October). Things drop off significantly in November and December under McDermott; the Bills are now 0-2 this November, putting their record at 12-10 in this month under McDermott, for a win percentage drop-off from .651 to .545.

There are plenty of reasons for this—mounting injuries and Buffalo’s propensity for returning players to the lineup conservatively (more on this in a moment) listed among them—and this is likely a statistic that would even out a bit as time goes on. But man, the Bills have had some awful losses in the past couple of Novembers—the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts last year, and now the Jets and Vikings this year—and one could begin to wonder if the team’s general approach has something to do with this.

It’s time to get Tre’Davious White onto the field

It has now been nearly an entire calendar year since White, the 2019 All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, suited up for the Bills. He returned to practice on October 12, so it has now been a full month since his physical ramp-up to a return to action began. The team had, and has, excellent intentions in making sure he’s physically and mentally ready to play following a year off. And this game would have been a rough way for him to return, with inclement weather and mixed precipitation yielding a difficult playing surface.

We’re now at a point where White needs to be on the field as soon as possible. Buffalo’s injury-riddled secondary needs a boost, and quite frankly, so does the team as a whole. This is a Super Bowl contender, and over the past month they’ve watched their status in the league slowly—and then quickly—erode as they struggled through injuries and poor play.

Putting White, who is unquestionably one of the team’s most important players and leaders, back onto the field isn’t going to solve all of their current problems. Not by a long shot. But this team needs a shot in the arm, and they have this ace in the hole standing on the sidelines. It’s time to lay the card down.