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It was the most incredible final two minutes of an NFL game this season for the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings.
And then we got overtime.
But this 33-30 overtime victory for the Vikings leaves the Buffalo Bills with a lot of questions.
Today the Bills are not in first place in the AFC East. Yeah, that’s different this late in the season. Both they and the Dolphins have 7-3 records and are seemingly tied for first but the fact is Miami beat Buffalo earlier this season so the tiebreaker sits in South Florida.
The Bills are left instead with could’ve- and should’ve-beens that weren’t.
Because this is a team with continued second-half struggles.
And continued struggles by quarterback Josh Allen.
It almost makes one wonder what universe we’re in because this was not what anyone expected out of the 2022 NFL season in mid November.
“We had opportunities to win the game but we’ve got to take care of the football,” coach Sean McDermott said. “I know I keep saying that. We talk about it every week but it makes it awfully hard to win a game when you turn it over four times.
“Sometimes before you win, you’ve got to prevent yourself from losing. I know it’s a negative connotation but that’s usually where it starts. And it involves the football.”
Those comments point directly to Allen, who threw two interceptions and fumbled at the goal line to cost his team a touchdown.
“Four turnovers, three of them by me,” Allen said. “It comes down to my shoulders and my shoulders alone.”
Bills Make Mistake, Face Questions
That’s not completely accurate. Allen did throw for 330 yards and lead his team with 84 rushing yards. But the truth is the Bills, on offense anyway, feel kind of like a one-man show.
And when Allen is off or makes a mistake, the show goes off the rails.
That’s what happened in the second half and the result was the Bills failed for the third consecutive game to score a second-half touchdown. And Allen threw his fourth red zone touchdown of the season compared to two all of last season.
That ultimately opened the door for the Vikings to win their seventh one-possession score game of the season and improve their record to 8-1.
It was, by the way, a great game by Justin Jefferson, who turned in a career-high 193 receiving yards, and defensive back Patrick Peterson, who had two key interceptions including one in overtime to close out the victory.
The Bills? They failed to score in both trips to the red zone in the second half. Like, zero points.
“This one sucks,” Allen said, comparing it to the team’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
Allen threw 2 interceptions — both by Peterson and both in the red zone.
“We could have played better,” receiver Stefon Diggs said. “We’re doing a lot of good things. Can’t take that away from the game. But it is some things we got to get fixed.”
Diggs said the Bills “might be blinking a little bit” in the second half after being sharp in the first half of games. He said the team sometimes gets in a “lull” in the second half.
The Bills held a seemingly comfortable 27-10 lead over the Vikings into the third quarter and then we saw Minnesota’s breakneck comeback that included …
An 81-yard TD run by Dalvin Cook to make it 27-18.
The Jefferson show — no, not the moving on up to the East Side one — included an incredible catch on a fourth-and-19 play that suggested the Bills are starting to miss injured cornerback Tre’Davious White.
It also suggested Jefferson is not of this Earth.
Great Comeback By The Vikings
Anyway back to the craziness…
An apparent TD by Jefferson that instead was called down at the 1 yard line led to more drama. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins failed on a fourth-down quarterback sneak and that gave the Bills the ball back with 50 seconds to play, holding a 27-23 lead.
But a fumble by Allen in the end zone the very next play was recovered by the Vikings for a go-ahead TD giving Minnesota a 30-27 lead.
“It’s on me,” Allen said. “Can’t have that.”
And here’s where decisions by the Bills coaching staff raise eyebrows:
Allen, playing with a sprained elbow, fumbled. Buffalo’s coaching staff, knowing their QB is injured, didn’t have him in shotgun where he could roll left or right and perhaps rush wide or throw the football away if pressured.
Allen. by the way, said the injury did not impact him during the game.
“Progressed throughout the week pretty steadily,” Allen said. “Always felt I could play.”
Despite trailing 30-27, the Bills did rally. They authored a five-play, 69-yard field goal drive in a mere 39 seconds with no timeouts. Tyler Bass connected on a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 30-30 and send it to overtime.
To add intrigue to the action, the Bills got a 20-yard completion on a pass from Allen to Gabe Davis that obviously helped the Bills but replay seemed to show was not complete. Except Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell didn’t throw a challenge flag so the completion stood.
(Out of breath, give me a second).
What was Bills Coach Thinking?
McDermott authored part of the issues because he decided to forsake a short field goal that would have given his team a 30-17 lead in the fourth quarter. But he chose to go for the TD from inside the 10 yard line on fourth down.
And Peterson intercepted Allen in the end zone to end a scoring threat. It was his first of his two interceptions.
“It was fourth down,” Allen said. “No sense in taking a sack or throwing the ball away. I was trying to give someone a chance. Those are going to happen.”
No one asked McDermott specifically about his decision to forsake the field goal. But someone did ask why, faced with second- and third-and-2 situations, the calls were to pass the ball instead of run.
“We had a couple of second-and-shorts that we’d like back,” McDermott said.
Eventually Greg Joseph kicked a 33 yard field goal to give the Vikings a 33-30 overtime lead. The kick, of course, was not without drama because Joseph had missed an extra point which was a reason the game was in the extra period, anyway.
It was Minnesota’s first lead since the first quarter when they were ahead 7-0.
And then Peterson came away with his interception in the end zone to seal it. Amazing for the Vikings.
Not so much for the Bills.
“I believe in this team,” McDermott said. “I believe in the team. They made more plays down the stretch. Obviously we turned the ball. We got them in fourth-and-19 and they made the play. We got to get the ball knocked down there. So opportunities to win the game and, again, we didn’t get it done.”