Jerry Hughes was the obvious star of the Buffalo Bills’ pass-rush show in Minnesota.
The veteran defensive end had five pressures in the win over the Vikings, by The News’ count. That included one sack, two hits on quarterback Kirk Cousins and two other hurries.
But Hughes had plenty of help from the Bills’ defensive line.
Lorenzo Alexander played a lot better than the statistics sheet showed (one assist, one pass defense, one fumble recovery). The ageless captain bull-rushed the pocket and forced Kirk Cousins to flee on the first turnover of the game, off Trent Murphy’s sack. Alexander also had a hit on the QB, forced a run stuff and generally played with ferocity pushing the middle of the pocket.
Alexander rushed the passer on 33 of his 39 snaps, 25 of them from a defensive tackle position.
Murphy, Kyle Williams and Matt Milano had the other sacks.
Milano rushed the passer with a vengeance seven times, once on a five-man rush and six times on zone-dogs (four-man rushes).
Here are the position-by-position grades of the game, based on a scale of 1 to 5:
Quarterback (4.0): The rookie QB is going to have to make plays outside the pocket and “off schedule” because he’s not yet ready to consistently win on rhythm like a five-year veteran. Allen did that repeatedly, with his scrambles and the 55-yard pass to Chris Ivory. He had nice pocket throws vs. the blitz to Andre Holmes (4 yards) and Kelvin Benjamin (12 yards).
Running back (2.5): Offensive linemen have to love blocking for Ivory. He’s going to get every yard on the table. Ivory averaged only 2.8 yards a carry but it was a good-enough effort considering the Bills were playing ball-control all second half.
Receiver (2.5): Benjamin dropped a fade, which was a tough catch, and dropped a slant at the goal line, which should have been a touchdown. The No. 1 WR must do better, but they need to keep feeding him. You have to like the two deep shots to Robert Foster. He’s going to catch one sooner or later. The first one would have been a TD if the ball hadn’t been underthrown. Jason Croom got 25 snaps. Khari Lee got 33 with the Bills grinding the clock.
Offensive line (3.5): The front five got some of its mojo back against a quality foe. Geoff Bodine was solid at center. He got good push against maulers Linval Joseph and Jaleel Johnson on positive run plays. John Miller played with aggression, looking good on a couple pulls and getting push. Dion Dawkins gave up one sack and one hurry but was mostly solid in a tough assignment against Danielle Hunter. Ditto on the right side for Jordan Mills, who had an easier matchup vs. Stephen Weatherly. Ryan Groy gave up a sack to Joseph.
Defensive line (4.5): The Bills’ front outclassed the Vikings suspect O-line and broke the game open with the first two sack-fumbles. Star Lotulelei only was needed for 24 snaps but collapsed the line early on. Murphy made a superb extra-effort play on his sack, picking himself off the ground to get to the QB.
Linebackers (4.5): Milano had eight tackles, a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a third-down breakup. Tremaine Edmunds tight pass coverage helped create Milano’s interception. Dalvin Cook’s injury made Edmunds’ job a bit easier, but it was a step forward for the rookie.
Defensive backs (4.0): Good to see Tre White have a stellar game blanketing Stefon Diggs. The breakup on the deep post was an all-star play. The Bills used safety Rafael Bush (19 snaps) as a bigger nickel on a lot of first and second downs, then used Taron Johnson (45 snaps) in more obvious pass situations. Johnson’s return as slot corner was a big plus. Micah Hyde had a key fourth-down breakup. Ryan Lewis played 54 snaps at corner.
Special teams (4.0): Stephen Hauschka is so reliable, we take for granted his field goals of 50-plus yards. He’s now 8 of 11 from 50-plus yards with the Bills. Corey Bojorquez hit five good punts, one poor punt. Ray-Ray McCloud should have fielded a high punt that rolled for 70 yards. Instead of taking over at the 40, the Bills started a drive at the 10. But playing it safe is better than muffing it for the rookie.