A defensive touchdown by the Bills early was all they had to show for a first half that turned ugly in a hurry as Minnesota piled up 31 unanswered points and coasted to a 38-14 victory over Buffalo.
Buffalo committed five turnovers, and the Vikings converted them into 21 points with Adrian Peterson the biggest beneficiary. Peterson scored two of his three touchdowns off Bills turnovers and rumbled for 107 yards on 16 carries as the Vikings averaged almost six yards a carry on the day en route to a 200-yard rushing day.
"We have a job to do each and every Sunday individually and collectively as a team and that's what we didn't do," said Donte Whitner. "We didn't get the job done and we actually looked like a team that's supposed to be 2-10."
The Bills offense had their fewest points scored for the first time since a 34-7 decision at Green Bay in Week 2. The 24-point loss was their largest margin of defeat since they lost to the Jets in Week 4 by an identical score.
"Obviously I didn't do a good job of preparing our football team for what they were getting into coming in here," said head coach Chan Gailey. "I told the team after the game that if you want to be a great team you've got to expect that environment every week because that's what it's going to be. We've got to learn how to handle that. You can't turn it over five times in a place like this against a team like that and ever expect to win, especially early in the ball game. We played extremely poor."
Buffalo's offense got their only points late in the fourth quarter when Ryan Fitzpatrick finished a five-play 43-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson, the first of Nelson's career with 4:43 remaining.
"We didn't have too many things go our way especially offensively," said Fitzpatrick. "I'm at a loss for words. We turned the ball over too much. We didn't play well enough, I didn't play well enough. We just didn't get anything going all day."
The only other realistic opportunity to put points on the board came earlier in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick completed a pass deep over the middle to Lee Evans for 26 yards to set up 1st-and-goal at the eight-yard line. But on 3rd-and-goal from the one, Fitzpatrick fumbled the snap and Minnesota recovered.
In Fitzpatrick's defense injuries on his offensive line greatly compromised the consistency of play up front. Already without starting right guard Eric Wood, Buffalo also lost starting center Geoff Hangartner in the first half.
He was replaced by Kraig Urbik, who had been playing right guard. Cordaro Howard came on to fill the guard spot vacated by Urbik. In the fourth quarter however, Urbik suffered a leg injury and had to be carted off. At that point Andy Levitre moved into the pivot with Ed Wang stepping in at left guard.
Fitzpatrick finished with just 158 yards passing on 15-25 passing. Buffalo had just 234 total net yards. He was sacked only once in the game, but was under constant duress from Minnesota's front four.
"They definitely got after us," said Levitre. "I don't think we came to play offensively, we didn't do anything. The defense had a few turnovers and did a pretty good job, but offensively we couldn't respond to any of the turnovers they had for us and couldn't really get the ball moving."
"The pass rush just took us out of so much," said Gailey. "We tried to run it a little bit. We had some on and off success running it, but you've got to be able to throw it and we just could not slow their rush down."
The game started off well for the Bills. Arthur Moats knocked Brett Favre out of the game on the Vikings third play from scrimmage. Favre rolled out to his right, but Moats looped around from behind drilling him in the back as he passed.
Favre's throw was intercepted by Drayton Florence while Favre landed on his throwing hand. Though Buffalo's offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover with points, Favre was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
Then on a Vikings possession two series later Jackson was intercepted by Florence on a pass intended for Greg Camarillo, with the Bills cornerback taking the pass back 40 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Minnesota responded with a touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. After a 14-yard reception by Bernard Berrian brought the Vikings down to the Bills 31-yard line, Jackson connected with Sidney Rice down the near sideline on a 31-yard pass play, but was ruled out of bounds after he and Leodis McKelvin wrestled for the football.
The Vikings challenged the play and were awarded a 31-yard touchdown on an overturned call to tie the score.
On the kickoff return that followed, Leodis McKelvin fumbled at his own 19-yard line when he ran into one of his own blockers and did not switch the football to his outside hand. The loose ball was recovered by Minnesota at the Bills 14-yard line.
McKelvin compounded matters when he was called for pass interference on a 3rd-and-2 from the Buffalo six-yard line to give the Vikings a 1st-and-goal situation from the one-yard line. Two plays later, Adrian Peterson took it in on a one-yard touchdown run and Minnesota was up 14-7.
From there the Vikings poured it on as their defense suffocated Buffalo's offense with pass pressure and solid run defense. Buffalo's offense was forced three-and-out early in the second quarter and the Vikings put together another touchdown drive, which was helped by an unnecessary roughness penalty when Donte Whitner hit a sliding Tarvaris Jackson at the end of a scramble play by the Vikings quarterback.
Peterson would cap the drive with another touchdown run from three yards out for a 21-7 lead.
Minnesota would add another touchdown after Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a pass under pressure that was intercepted by Antoine Winfield and returned 41 yards to the Bills five-yard line.
On 2nd-and-goal from the six, Jackson found Sidney Rice for a six-yard touchdown pass for a 28-7 Vikings advantage.
Minnesota then added a 38-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell as time expired in the first half for a 31-7 halftime edge.
"I felt like we took a step back," said Whitner, who had one of Buffalo's four takeaways. "Very disappointing. We knew that this was going to be a hostile place to play. We knew we were in for a battle, but we didn't expect to come out and get beat the way we got beat. We got some turnovers on defense, but we also turned it over on offense and when you have that it's a field position battle and they did a good job in the red zone. Adrian really did a good job, so we've got to go back to work and we have to take the indecision out of our offense and our defense."
Buffalo returns home next Sunday where they will host the Cleveland Browns for a 1 pm kickoff at Ralph Wilson Stadium.