The Buffalo Bills led the Minnesota Vikings by 17 points with 17 minutes left in regulation. It wasn’t over, but it sure felt like it. The Bills had just hit a field goal, which was frustrating given that they had advanced to the Vikings’ 22-yard line. They failed to convert a 3rd & 2, which led to the field goal.
From that point forward, all hell broke loose in Orchard Park, NY. A 27-10 lead became a 30-27 deficit with just 41 seconds remaining. Quarterback Josh Allen turned it over twice, throwing an interception and losing a fumble in his own end zone, to aid the comeback. There were a host of amazing plays that the Vikings made, too. The Bills didn’t slam the door when they could have, and the Vikings pillaged their way to a 33-30 victory.
Our five Vikings to watch all came up big in one way or another on Sunday. Here’s how they fared.
RB Dalvin Cook
The star running back gained just 38 yards on his first 13 carries, which was a huge improvement for Buffalo’s run defense after they were run all over the two weeks prior. The problem, though, is what Cook did with that 14th carry. After kicker Tyler Bass hit a field goal to give Buffalo a 27-10 lead, Cook took the ensuing handoff and scampered 81 yards for a touchdown, putting the game squarely back into toss-up territory and squashing any momentum the Bills had. It was a combination of awful that led to the run—the Vikings blocked it beautifully, they caught the Bills outnumbered on the play side, cornerback Christian Benford missed a tackle, and safety Cam Lewis took an awful angle as the last line of defense. Cook also dropped a sure touchdown pass on the Vikings’ last drive in regulation on a play that ended up not counting thanks to an offside penalty. He finished with 119 yards and that rushing touchdown, adding three catches for 27 yards receiving.
WR Adam Thielen
The forgotten man in the Minnesota passing attack is still a great option, and he had a workmanlike game on Sunday. He caught five of his seven targets for a total of 49 yards. The longest grab was a 21-yard gain where it seemed like Buffalo’s defense just lost him in coverage. In overtime, Thielen made a big grab along the sidelines before Benford body-slammed him to the turf, perhaps in frustration, when he was already out of bounds. That added 15 yards to the play and nearly led to a game-ending touchdown a few plays later. Ultimately, though, it was the next receiver who made the biggest plays of the day.
WR Justin Jefferson
I mean—wow. What else can you say? You see the picture that’s attached to this article. Seriously, how the hell did he catch that? It’s 4th & 18, the Bills have the perfect coverage called for the Minnesota play, the pass is a high and slightly off-target floater, a defensive back is in perfect position to knock it down, and he...goes for the interception?! Did he never listen to Chris Berman and Tom Jackson? To blame Cam Lewis is to take away from the absolutely superhuman effort that Jefferson gave in hauling in that pass, as he rendered the amazing one-handed grab by Stefon Diggs to end the third quarter an afterthought. Jefferson was absolutely unguardable for most of the game, and the fact that Buffalo was able to force six incomplete throws on passes his way feels somewhat miraculous in hindsight. Jefferson caught 10 passes for 193 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, but it was the highlight-reel that he put together in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime that will stick with me. This guy might be the best wideout in the league.
LB Za’Darius Smith
The big edge rusher only had two tackles, but he made them count. He sacked Allen for a big 13-yard loss on a 3rd & 1 play to end Buffalo’s first second-half drive. He also tipped a pass in the first half that nearly led to an interception. Smith was a handful for right tackle Spencer Brown, who held up admirably in his first game back after sitting with an ankle injury. Smith had two quarterback hits, as well.
DE Danielle Hunter
The other big edge rusher also notched a sack on the day. Hunter took Allen down in the fourth quarter, and while the Bills ultimately moved downfield, they didn’t score, as Allen threw an end zone interception to cornerback Patrick Peterson. Hunter was in the backfield on that play, flushing Allen and forcing him to make a decision on the fourth-down pass. He also managed two tackles on the day, in addition to that sack.