The Buffalo Bills certainly didn’t deserve to beat the Minnesota Vikings today at Ralph Wilson Stadium, in an ugly, turnover filled game between two teams that couldn’t get much of anything going on the offensive side of the ball.
When it came down to the wire, the Bills got the ball back with just over three minutes left to play, down six. Kyle Orton would lead the Bills on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that included a 4th and 20 conversion from Orton to tight end Scott Chandler to keep hope alive.
Just four plays later after the fourth down conversion, and after a bad intentional grounding on Orton pushed the Bills to 2nd and 20 from the 30 without any timeouts remaining, Chris Hogan would make the play of the day, coming up with an acrobatic jump ball victory near the goal line in heavy coverage that set the Bills up at the 2-yard line with just 5 seconds remaining.
Sammy Watkins, who was split out far left in the formation on the Bills last play, ran an in route before reversing field and working back towards the back left pylon. Orton found the young wide out with a bullet, and Watkins managed to drag both feet in to give the Bills the game-tying touchdown.
Kicker Dan Carpenter would make the win official, knocking through the extra point to put the Bills (4-3) on top over the Vikings (2-5), 17-16.
- Bills play-by-play great Van Miller was honored today, as he became the 29th member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame for his contributions to the team as the “Voice of the Bills” from 1960-70 and 1978-2003. Miller is well know around Western New York with some of his famous calls of the Bills greats coming in the early 90’s. The most memorable call that comes to memory would be “The Comeback” game in which a Frank Reich led Bills team erased a 32-point deficit to win 41-38 in a playoff game against the Houston Oilers. “Football is the greatest game in the world,” Miller would say in a statement. “It was the thrill of a lifetime to do something that I loved while making so many wonderful memories alongside Bills fans listening in each Sunday. Thank you, fans, for giving me that honor and inviting me into your lives. Seeing my name on the Wall of Fame next to football giants leaves me more than humbled; thank you to the entire Bills organization for this tremendous privilege.”
- I think it is about time that the Bills stop dressing kickoff specialist Jordan Gay every week. Kickoff specialists are allowed on deep, winning football teams. The Bills need to stop wasting a roster spot on a guy to just kick it out of the end zone. Gay couldn’t even deliver this week, as he squibbed a bad kickoff (even though it was the coach’s call, not his) and also only reached the 8-yard line on another boot. I know that Cordarrelle Patterson was back there returning kicks and you want to keep him from doing that, but you know what the simplest way to stop that is? Kick the dang ball out of the back of the end zone. The Bills lost both starting running backs and couldn’t turn to inactive Bryce Brown when they really could’ve used him off the bench for a spark. It is so dumb to waste a roster spot to a guy who kicks the ball maybe 3-4 times a game. Enough is enough Buffalo.
- Speaking on Buffalo’s running game, they lost both starters Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller to injury. Jackson injured his groin on a running play right before the end of the 1st quarter and it did not look good for the veteran running back. He was able to make his way back to the bench, but the cart would pick him up there and take him back into the locker room for the rest of the game. It is unsure the severity of his injury, as a MRI will have to be taken as soon as possible to see how much damage to the muscle there actually was. Jackson covered his face as he went into the tunnel, and showed pain like I have never before seen from the veteran. Spiller was also hurt in this one, as he took his first carry for a 53-yard game before coming down hard on his shoulder area. It didn’t look too bad, until you realize that this was a player running at top speed before his legs were cut out and he fell on his shoulder with his full body weight. It was learned that Spiller broke his collarbone. A timetable for his return is not yet available, and to put it in perspective Green Bay Packers quarterback missed about two months worth of time with a similar injury just last season. Both injuries will test the running back depth on the Bills, as they were struggling to establish a strong running game even with their top two backs.
- Sammy Watkins not only caught the game-winning touchdown pass, but he also eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the second time in his young career. The Bills made it a priority to get Watkins involved, and he delivered with 9 receptions on 14 targets for 122 yards and two scores. Watkins looked all the part of star wide receiver in the making in this one, as he caught passes all over the field. This trend needs to continue as the season goes on. Watkins is too good for most teams to leave him out there one-on-one with a corner, but is also very fast and good in finding the soft spots in zones. He will find a way to burn you and get open against just about anyone in the league. It is up to Orton to continue to find the young playmaker in space.
- While both teams played ugly, it was good to see the Bills as the team without the young rookie quarterback playing in this one. The jury is still out on what kind of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be in this league but for right now he is not an effective one. Bridgewater, who was playing in just his third NFL game, did not look good in his 15 for 26, 157 yard, and 2-interception performance. He did make a few good throws today, but overall looked very shaky in the pocket.
He didn’t have a great feel for the pressure the Bills were bringing, which lead to five sacks for Buffalo’s defensive unit. There was a reason the Vikings went with Matt Cassel before his season ending foot injury cost him his season just a couple weeks ago; Bridgewater just isn’t ready. With no Adrian Peterson to help him out, I expect the Vikings offense to struggle mightily in trying to get anything going. Bridgewater holds onto the ball too long and makes too many bad decisions right now that are going to make them a successful unit. The blueprint of stacking the box and making Bridgewater beat you with his arm is one that he is going to have to go against for the rest of the year until he can make teams account for him. Very tough day for the rookie quarterback.
- Head Coach Doug Marrone was happy with the victory, but that is the only joy he got out of this game. After the game, he really stressed on how much work this team has to do. He was mostly unhappy with the turnovers and bad penalties that saw his team almost throw the game away. “I told the players that before,” Marrone said. “I’m the worst at this. My mind is already going ahead and it’s my responsibility. To come in here and B.S. you, come on. We’ve got to get some things done. We’ve got to push and fight and push and all of those things. I’ve said those words before. Am I going to be going home and be happy and smiling on my face? Me? No. Now, do I want the players to? Absolutely do. Do I want the coaches to? Yeah, I do. I do. For those of you who don’t know me that well, I’ve always been like this. It’s always been difficult for me.”
- Another notable from his press conference was the fact that the Bills are happy with their running back depth. Bryce Brown is going to get an extended look during next week’s game, as he will be activated for the first time this season. Marrone noted that Buffalo had no plans to pick up a running back off of the free agent market saying “We have Boobie (Dixon) and then, obviously, we have Bryce (Brown). It’s not like we have to go out on the street to get somebody to come in. I have no problem in bringing up Bryce. We talked about him last week, which I hope wasn’t a jinx”.
- The Buffalo Bills rushing defense has really taken a step back as an entire unit. I was shocked to see how easily the Vikings were able to move the ball. It’s nitpicking from a group that had good pressure all day (5 sacks) and two interceptions, but their rushing defense was really a liability and it is so concerning because this is the second week in a row that this group had trouble. Overall, the defense kept them in this game and stopped some big Viking scoring drives in holding them to field goal attempts, but when you’re coming in as the top ranked rush defense, it isn’t good to watch Minnesota run for 158 total yards.
- The Bills pass rush continued to show why it is one of the best in pro football. DE Jerry Hughes continues his great season, racking up 1.5 sacks in this one to bring his season total up to 5.5 on the year. DT Marcell Dareus had another monster game, as he was all over the field for Buffalo. He added 2.0 sacks of his own, giving him seven already on the year from the DT posistion! Mario Williams also registered a sack, bringing his season total up to 5.5 as well.
- Hughes also seemed to sum up this game best, stating “No mixed feelings at all. A win’s a win and we’re all ecstatic. We’re happy. We’re going to enjoy this for tonight and then we’re onto the next one, getting ready for the (New York) Jets.”
- How about the 4th and 20 conversion that kept this game alive in the first place? Kyle Orton seemed to rush the team to the line of scrimmage that didn’t allow the Vikings to get everyone in place like they would have liked to. TE Scott Chandler ran right down the middle of the fielding, faking right before going back left in his seam route, and found himself right in the cushion between the middle linebackers in front of him and the safety help over the top. Orton delivered a strike right where it needed to be and the Bills picked up a huge first down. Without this conversion, we are talking about a Minnesota Vikings victory right now. It was nice to see Chandler step up and make a play when his team needed him most, something that hasn’t always happened in the past. Orton had enough confidence in his big target to throw him this pass even though he dropped a pass his way just two plays before. “I think that’s what being a teammate is all about” Chandler said when asked about how good it felt for Orton to call his number again just a couple plays after the drop. “You got to trust the guys around you. If you don’t trust the guys around you, that’s not what a teammate is. I want him to know that I’m going to make the next play and I think we all feel the same way about each other.”
- The biggest negative from the Bills game today would arguably be the play of the offensive line. It is quite clear that what they have right now isn’t working. I wanted to review the game again before I spoke too much on this topic, but to just look at it as the fact that this starting group allowed five sacks today and if you take away the Spiller 53-yard run (which was very well blocked and it allowed Spiller to use his speed and hit a cutback for the big gain) only averaged 3.6 yards a carry on the other 18 carries in the game. Yes they lost their top two backs, but there haven’t been too many open holes for the entire season. This type of play can’t continue moving forwards, because it won’t keep them in a lot of ball games if it does. It will be interesting to see what shakeup Marrone could have on his mind, if any.
- Boy, was I wrong about Mike Williams possibly being a factor in this game. It is quite clear now that the Bills strongly view Chris Hogan as an upgrade at the position, and once Goodwin returns Williams could hit the inactive list again. He is strongly slotted in the 5 spot on the depth chart right now if the team was fully healthy.
Stats to Like
Sammy Watkins, 9 Receptions for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns
Can’t say enough about his game. The first touchdown fade route was a thing of beauty as well, as he torched his man at the line, and pulled in the pass right before the safety could try to help out. Look for more performances like this as the year goes out. This guy is an extreme talent.
Stats to Dislike
Minnesota Running Backs rushing for 148 yards on 27 carries
Take out a run by Bridgewater and one by Patterson and the Vikings ran for almost 5.5 yards a carry. Matt Asiata is the first running back to gain more than 90 yards against the Bills defense, as he rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries. The group was at least able to keep them out of the end zone, as this made seven straight games the Bills haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown against them.
It’s easy to give the MVP to the player who scored the game winner, but Watkins truly was Buffalo’s most explosive player on the field this week. The Vikings didn’t have the answer on how to cover him, and he burned them for another 100-yard game. We are starting to see, when the ball gets to him, that this kid is really going to be something special.
On Tap for Next Week
The Buffalo Bills (4-3) travel to New York to take on the Jets (1-6) in a pivotal division game for their playoff aspirations. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 PM (eastern) at MetLife Stadium.
If the Bills make a playoff appearance this year, this game really isn’t going to be one that people remember other than the fact that they won it. This is a game that the Bills love to give away, but I give them credit for fighting through to the very end and coming away with a big victory. The season is still alive and they head to New Jersey next week to try to knock off a better than their record shows Jets team. If they want to continue to take the next steps, this is a game that they will need to have.
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