*1 – Bills get win no one expected *
The point spread in Las Vegas was up to 17 points and the Bills were the heavy road underdog. Buffalo had been badly outscored in the first half through their first two games and after a player quite last week, several national media outlets took their shots at Buffalo.
Buffalo shut everybody up on Sunday as they not only beat the Vikings in their own building, but almost shut them out. And they did it without their most talented player in the lineup in LeSean McCoy, who was unable to play due to cracked rib cartilage.
“This is a young team and I’m extremely proud of them. They earned it by the way they prepared during the week,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “We’re making progress. We’re developing a young squad here and I saw some significant progress. It’s a step. We’re still not where we need to be, but it’s a step.”
The Vikings were blanked in the first half as the Bills flipped the script of the first two weeks taking a 27-0 lead into the half.
“I was telling (my teammates) earlier, who are those people making those predictions,” said Jordan Poyer. “They don’t understand the guys in this room or our mindset. They don’t understand our football team. Last year we almost started off similar. We could’ve lost the Jets game in the opener last year, just as easily as we won it. Then we go to Carolina and end up losing despite playing well, 9-3. Then we went to Atlanta and that’s where things kicked off for us and we started feeling momentum and felt we were playing the way we were supposed to play. It can go a long way.”
Buffalo upset the defending NFC champion Falcons on the road last season in Week 3 (23-17). This season the Week 3 win over an NFC playoff team from the year before was even more resounding.
The only points for the Vikings came via a late touchdown with just under three minutes to play. Minnesota did not convert on the ensuing two-point attempt. But the Bills were even keeled in the locker room after their first big win of the season.
“I think we’re just going to focus on one team at a time, one week at a time,” said Jerry Hughes. “This was a great team win. Our offense played great, secondary played great, special teams did a fantastic job. We’re just going to take it week by week, not really worrying about what happened last year because last year’s team was done. It’s already written down. For us it’s about carving out our own niche and finding a way to win football games.”
2 - Pass rush feasts on third down
The Bills pass rush showed signs of life in the second half of their Week 2 loss to Los Angeles. That was effectively carried into Sunday’s matchup with the Vikings.
Buffalo went with the same pass rush lineup of Trent Murphy, Lorenzo Alexander, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes and it proved effective as they got to Kirk Cousins early and often.
Murphy got things started when he beat right tackle Rashod Hill and not only sacked Cousins, but forced a fumble. Lorenzo pounced on the ball at the Minnesota 15. The turnover led to a field goal drive by Buffalo’s offense.
“Trent starts the game off with a strip sack and the offense gets points,” said Hughes. “It was motivation for me to get out there and do the exact same thing. Try to find ways to help our team win. I think those two plays were huge to get the ball rolling. We always talk about starting fast and he jumped the game off quick and I just wanted to follow his lead.”
On the very next Vikings possession, Jerry Hughes beat left tackle Riley Reiff around the corner and also forced a fumble on a sack of Cousins. Matt Milano recovered the fumble at the Vikings 25, and the offense cashed in with a touchdown to push their early lead to 17-0.
Kyle Williams also got in on the third down sack parade when Hughes won off the edge again. It forced Cousins to step up in the pocket right into the waiting arms of Williams for a loss of eight to force a Minnesota punt.
That third down success continued for most of the first half as Minnesota did not convert a third down opportunity until under a minute left in the second quarter.
In the second half on the Vikings first possession, Buffalo again notched a sack on third down, as Matt Milano came on a blitz and beat RB Mike Boone in pass protection for the team’s fourth sack of the game.
A short time later, Hughes again won off the edge and almost strip sacked Cousins again, forcing an incompletion as the quarterback’s arm was just coming forward as he made contact.
“They did a good job at just presenting different looks. Again they played fast and understood their opponent. Played fast and we were able to get Cousins off his spot a little bit. But it’s also complementary football with the front end and the back seven working together. I thought they did a good job of that and I thought Leslie Frazier called a good game.”
3 – Allen off and running, improved as passer
Going from start one to start two for Josh Allen proved to be an exercise in significant progress.
Allen was aggressive, but not reckless as he took what the defense gave him. It enabled Allen to get into a passing rhythm early in the game. He completed six of his first eight passes for 65 yards including a 26-yard touchdown to a wide-open Jason Croom off a fake swing pass to the flat.
“He was decisive early and that’s important,” said McDermott. “It looked like he played with a clear mind, which is also important for our young players, whether it’s Tremaine (Edmunds) or Josh in this case. It’s important that they play with a clear mind and do what they do.”
Perhaps even more impressive were Allen’s scrambles and read option runs. Facing a 2nd-and-9 from the Vikings 10-yard line on the opening drive, Allen took off on a scramble and outraced the defense to the front left pylon of the end zone, diving and stretching the ball out to break the plan for a touchdown.
Late in the first quarter facing a 3rd-and-9 at the Bills 36-yard line, Allen scrambled right up the middle and hurdled a Vikings linebacker before crossing the line to gain on another 10-yard run.
“It was third down and they brought a little pressure and I escaped. I probably got my eyes down too low. I should’ve went through the progression a little longer, but I was trusting my feet, trusting my gut,” said Allen. “There was a guy maybe three yards in front of the sticks and I knew we needed to get a first down there. I think we went on to score on that drive. It was a big play, but it was just another first down.”
The play ignited the Bills sideline as several players were jumping up and down seeing Allen put his body on the line.
“It was unbelievable. It got everybody juiced up. Just seeing a guy out there competing like that,” said Poyer. “I didn’t know what he was going to do. The last thing I thought he was going to do was hurdle. That was one of the most unbelievable plays I’ve ever seen live in person. If that’s not a top 10 play I don’t know what is.”
Allen then finished the drive leaping over the line to extend the ball and break the plane of the goal line for a one-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal from the one.
“To get down there and come away with three or zero, it would not be a good thing. To be that close, I’m thankful he trusted me to go get one yard,” Allen said. :But our line did a great job on that play and the whole game. A lot of credit to our guys. I’m proud as heck of them because that’s a tough defense we just played.”
The rookie quarterback was under pressure at times and did take three sacks, fumbling on one of them, but he ran the offense efficiently and made good decisions in the passing game as evidenced by his completion percentage of almost 70 percent (69.6%).
He finished the game 15-22 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 111.2.