Thursday, March 23 2023

How do you do this game justice?

The Bills and Vikings put together the best game of the season in Week 10, with coach Minnesota Kevin O’Connell, receiver Justin Jefferson and quarterback Kirk Cousins nabbing a 33-30 overtime victory. The fight was nothing short of ferocious.

In the span of two minutes late in regulation, the Bills had a 94% win probability and then the Vikings had a 94% win probability. And yet we found ourselves in overtime. Minnesota did just enough not to lose it. The Bills helped them win it.

It was a heavyweight fight that told us a lot about these two teams, which — in my book — remain among the NFL’s best.

What it means for the Bills

The game came down to a Josh Allen interception in overtime, his second turnover of the game. Allen eyed receiver Gabe Davis downfield, but Allen’s intended target wasn’t open — not with cornerback Patrick Peterson in coverage. Peterson undercut Allen’s throw for an interception, which officially ended the game.

It marked Allen’s third consecutive game with a pair of picks. To make matters worse, all four of his interceptions in the past two weeks have come in the red zone.

“Losing sucks. It sucks this way even worse. Horrendous second half,” Allen said postgame. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better.”

On the overtime interception, he simply shouldn’t have thrown the ball. He lost the game for the Bills, who were in field-goal range and could’ve extended the game with a kick. And it’s a shame because Allen had rushed for 38 yards and thrown for 14 on the drive. He seemed to be putting the team on his back, but perhaps that’s why he flinched. He was trying to do too much.

“The second [interception] — just bad ball, bad decision,” Allen said.

And since I’m kicking Allen while he’s down, I won’t leave anything out. 

Sorry, Josh.

The Bills had the win in hand with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. They were on their own 1-yard line and needed to create some space for themselves to knee the ball and run out the clock. But in the desperation of the moment, Allen fumbled the ball on a QB sneak. The Vikings recovered for a touchdown to help engineer an overtime win.

Josh Allen fumbles at the goal line, Vikings score wild TD

With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Bills QB Josh Allen fumbled at the goal line and Minnesota recovered in the end zone to take the lead.

Buffalo (6-3), a Super Bowl favorite, has fallen to third in the AFC East behind the New York Jets (6-3) and the Miami Dolphins (7-3). Both have wins in hand over Buffalo. The Bills aren’t out of the hunt for the playoffs. They remain one of the NFL’s best teams. But they have more work to do than anyone expected — particularly on offense — if they want to make the Super Bowl run that, during the preseason, they promised they’d chase.

What it means for the Vikings

For the 8-1 Vikings, this is more of the same — they’re an ascending team that has proven, week after week, that they’re legit. And this was their toughest test yet.

Mock Kirk Cousins all you want. Rip him for struggling in big games. But he wasn’t the quarterback who faltered — not at the key moment. That was Allen.

Don’t get me wrong, Cousins’ performance had its warts. He, too, had a pair of interceptions to go with his 357 passing yards and a passing touchdown. But his team got a field goal in overtime, largely due to Cousins holding onto the football. Allen’s team did not. That was the difference.

The Vikings are now 7-0 in one-possession games. That’s right — they have finished within one-possession of their opponent in seven of their nine games. Maybe they aren’t statistically elite in counting stats. Headed into this game, their defense was ranked 12th in points allowed per game (20.1) and their offense was ranked eighth in points per game. But the Vikings are an elite NFL team, nonetheless. They proved as much with a big performance in Buffalo.

And if you’re looking for whom to thank for the Vikings’ win, the answer is obvious: Justin Jefferson. He was an absolute magnet for the football, and he delivered one big play after the next, including one of the most impressive catches in recent years and certainly the most impressive catch so far this year. His one-handed grab in traffic was reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr.’s backward-diving one-handed grab against the Cowboys.

Justin Jefferson snags an absurd one-handed grab

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson couldn’t be stopped against the Bills defense as he pulled a wild catch late in the fourth quarter.

He finished with 10 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown. Dalvin Cook had 14 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown. The stars showed up. And if they keep showing up, the Vikings seem like the obvious pick to duke it out with the Eagles in the NFC title game.

 Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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Source: FOX Sports


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