MINNEAPOLIS – How do you rid yourself of all of the misery that the Bills have experienced in the first two weeks of the season? You shock the NFL by beating a team oddsmakers installed as at least 16.5-point favorite.
Of course, the Bills didn’t simply win Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. They pounded them in every way possible to score a 27-6 victory – scoring all of their points in the first half – that even their most optimistic supporters never saw coming.
According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Bills became only the fifth NFL team since 1990 to win as an underdog of 15 points or more. They are the first do so so outright by more than seven points.
And the most encouraging part was the way the Bills did it.
They did it with dynamic play from rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who threw for one touchdown and ran for two others, sending a clear message that the franchise has a legitimate reason to anticipate a long and prosperous future with the seventh overall pick of the draft.
They did it with dominant play from a defense – which appeared to have coordinator Leslie Frazier calling plays again – that through two games had been a HUGE disappointment. The Bills forced three turnovers, with the first two leading to 10 points. They also put a chokehold on a Vikings offense that was supposed to have as good a receiver duo in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and intended to take full advantage of them with the heavy free-agent investment in quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The game was yet another example of why it is silly to make the sweeping conclusions so many of us are quick to make based upon what we see at the outset of the season.
Sure, the Bills stumbled around for the better part of eight quarters that included the worst season-opening loss in the 59-year history of the franchise; a player retiring at halftime in Week 2; and the head coach yanking play-calling duties from his veteran defensive coordinator. And then on the morning of the third game, the Bills scratched their top running back from the lineup with sore ribs.
But Allen’s talent was apparent from the first time he took the field in offseason workouts. Rough edges? You know it. But this is the kind of guy who can do things with his passing arm and his legs that the Bills haven’t had at quarterback in a long time.
Three snapshots from Allen’s performance will leave a lasting impression on a day that will be remembered for a long time in Bills history:
- His 10-yard touchdown run to cap the game’s opening drive.
- His hurdling (yes, hurdling) linebacker Anthony Barr, covering an amazing five yards in the process, on the way to a 10-yard gain on third-and-nine.
- His rollout and 55-yard connection with wide-open running back Chris Ivory – starting for injured LeSean McCoy – on the same drive as the hurdle to help set up Allen’s 1-yard touchdown keeper to make it 24-0.
The Bills’ defense was the side of the ball that was supposed to have significantly improved after the free-agent signings of Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy (and a cornerback named Vontae Davis who quit in the middle of last week’s loss against the Chargers), and the drafting of Tremaine Edmunds. On Sunday, it finally played that way.
Maybe the Vikings weren’t worthy of all of the hype they had received before the season and even after a 1-0-1 start. The loud booing of the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd seemed to indicate that not everyone is convinced this is a Super Bowl contender.
And maybe the Bills weren’t deserving of all of the wrath they incurred for the comedy of errors that preceded what happened Sunday.
Either way, Buffalo’s season has suddenly become a whole lot more interesting, even with one game left -- next Sunday at Green Bay -- in what was thought to be the most daunting portion of the schedule.