BILLS-VIKINGS QUARTERLY REPORT
Theme: That’s why you play the games. The Bills forced two turnovers on the Vikings’ first three possessions.
Matchup watch: Jerry Hughes vs. Riley Reiff. The Vikings’ seventh-year left tackle was off to a good start to the season, having allowed no sacks and four hurries the first two weeks. But Reiff had a long day against Hughes, who beat him clean on a speed move to force the second Kirk Cousins fumble. It broke open the game, setting up the Bills’ third score and a 17-0 lead. Reiff is the No. 11 highest paid OT in the NFL, at $11.7 million a year. He yielded a sack and three hurries to Hughes.
Spectacular: Allen leaped over Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr on a 10-yard run.
Unsung: Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei caused two run stuffs on the two plays before Hughes’ strip-sack.
Key miss: The Vikings had a chance to stop the bleeding, down 17-0 with 3:13 to go. But on a third-and-5 play, Cousins overthrew an open Adam Thielen 26 yards downfield at the Buffalo 35. The Vikes had to punt.
Theme: Shock and awe. The Bills’ defense kept the pressure on Cousins, Minnesota’s $84 million man.
Matchup watch: Kyle Williams vs. Mike Remmers. The Bills’ defensive beat the Vikings veteran guard for an 8-yard sack to thwart the Vikings’ fourth drive. Remmers had a rough day. The Vikings have to be a bit concerned about whether they have a Super Bowl-caliber offensive line. Last year the Vikes had the most rushing attempts in the NFL. What if they get in a shootout with the elite NFC teams?
Zebra Report: Say what? Sean McDermott challenged a fumble call on a shovel-pass that bounced off Marcus Murphy’s face mask on the first play of the quarter. It should have been an incomplete forward pass. Allen caught it and dropped it forward. It’s hard to understand how the NFL office could miss this.
No second guess: Credit McDermott with good game management just before the Bills’ third TD. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Bills were about to let the clock run out. The coach called time out. The Bills scored on the next play.
Theme: Don’t even think about a comeback.
Difference maker: Bills linebacker Matt Milano.
Matchup watch: Tre’Davious White vs. Stephon Diggs. The Vikings receiver is a quality route-runner, has excellent short-area quickness and has 4.46 speed in the 40-yard dash. He’s not an elite burner but he’s fast. White was up to the challenge against him. Midway through the quarter, Diggs ran a deep post on White and the pass from Cousins was perfect. But White grabbed and twisted Diggs’ shoulders just after the ball arrived and broke it up. Diggs finished with four catches for 17 yards.
Ole award: Milano abused Vikings back Mike Boone, who made a weak attempt to block the blitzing linebacker. Milano ran through him for a sack with 11:55 left.
Golden boot award: Milano showed world-class coordination in making an interception with 9:24 left in the quarter. Tremaine Edmunds hit Kyle Rudolph on the pass over the middle. Milano hit Rudolph from behind and fell on his back. As the ball hung in the air and as he lay on his back, Milano flicked it with his leg into his arms.
Theme: Your survivor pool is toast.
Matchup watch: Third-down defenses. The Vikings have the most renowned third-down defense in the NFL, having held foes to the lowest percentage last year (25.2) in the last 42 years. However, the Bills’ D outshined it. Minnesota was just 2 of 9 on third down, up until the last play of the third quarter.
Vegas smiles: Since 1990, underdogs of 15 or more were 4-91 entering Sunday and had never won by more than seven, according to ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell.
Zebra report: It was the third straight week the Bills drew a new referee (and there only are four first-year referees this year). Shawn Hochuli and Clay Martin called the first two weeks. Alex Kemp’s crew called 18 penalties (12 on the Bills), which was 3.6 over the league average this year. Nevertheless, we don’t have a big complaint with his crew.
No skol: The Vikings chant, which the crowd adopted in 2016 (they stole it from Iceland’s soccer fans), means “cheers” or “to good health.” There was no “skolling” after the coin toss at U.S. Bank Stadium.