The Buffalo Bills pull off the craziest two minutes in NFL history … again
Josh Allen and his team had a 27-10 lead in the third quarter on Sunday. The quarterback must shoulder much of the blame for the chaos that followed
When Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen went toe-to-toe in January’s playoff thriller, it was inconceivable that any game in the near future (or any future) would match its insanity. Well, hold our beer, said the Vikings and Bills on Sunday.
The Bills suffered a similar fate as they did in that playoff game, a devastating loss in overtime, this time 33-30. And Josh Allen was just as distraught as he had been in January. But not because NFL rules prevented him from getting the ball in overtime. This time Allen was a central culprit in the loss.
Allen’s mistakes were a recurring theme but only a slice of the riveting football we experienced in the final minutes of regulation on Sunday. To summarize the brain-frying action in the dying stages (not an easy task):
— The Vikings are down 27-23 (thanks to a missed extra point on CJ Ham’s touchdown) and need to score a touchdown to win.
— Over a 12 play, 75-yard drive, Justin Jefferson proves he is not human. The receiver catches everything in his line of sight, no matter the number of defenders. This includes an unbelievable 32-yard one-handed catch on fourth and 18.
— All the effort is for naught as the Vikings are stuffed at the goalline on a sequence that includes a trip by Kirk Cousins and a catch by Jefferson, who is ruled down at the one-yard line after what was initially ruled a touchdown. An offsides gets the Vikings closer but they are unable to push Cousins over the goalline on fourth down. The Bills are headed for victory again. (Anxiety-inducing enough for non-Bills and Vikings fans. I can’t imagine how the actual fans felt.)
— Then, with 41 seconds left and the Bills leading 27-23, comes the bad snap to end all bad snaps by the Bills at their own one-yard line. The Vikings smother the loose ball in the Bills endzone to take a 30-27 lead (Are you kidding me?)
— Thirty-six seconds is more than enough time for Allen to drive the Bills into field-goal range (thanks, in part, to a catch that probably shouldn’t have stood). Tyler Bass’ 29-yard field goal is good. We head to overtime! (No way this game was ending in regulation.)
— Minnesota win the toss and pull off some big gains. Are we going to be deprived of Allen yet again? No way. The Vikings can only muster a field goal. What say you, Bills?
— Allen leads a nice drive, picking up huge chunks of yardage with his feet and toughness. But then he throws the ball right into the hands of Patrick Peterson. Game over.
It was a crushing blow for Buffalo given that they had a 27-10 lead in the third quarter. Allen took the blame for the bad snap when the game seemed wrapped up, which is a nice demonstration of leadership, but his decision-making when it counted is now a legitimate cause for concern. Over the past two games, Allen has thrown four interceptions, three in the red zone, and just one touchdown. The Bills are 0-2 in that span. At one point this season, the Bills looked like the best team in football. Now they are 6-3 and tied with the New York Jets for second place in the AFC East. (The Jets own the tiebreaker thanks a better divisional record).
The only solace for Buffalo was that this wasn’t a playoff game and Allen was playing with a bum elbow, his status uncertain almost up until kickoff. The quarterback still showcased his arm strength and athleticism on Sunday: after all, Allen at 75% is still better than most quarterbacks as long as he can eliminate the mental mistakes that plagued him earlier in his career. The wheels have not fallen off in Buffalo – Allen’s elbow will continue to heal and, at some point, stud corner Tre’Davious White will make his 2022 debut – but you must wonder if this team is doomed when it comes to these enthralling finishes.
As for Minnesota: Hello world, meet the 8-1 Vikings. Many NFL fans weren’t paying much attention to them because the Vikings don’t have the flashiest of quarterbacks. But damn, can Cousins engineer a comeback. Sunday marked the fifth time this season he has orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback, tying an NFL record. To do it in Buffalo, down 27-10, with Von Miller coming alive in the second half, is remarkable. The argument that the Vikings’ record was due to facing weak teams and a slew of backup quarterbacks can now be dismissed. Minnesota’s only loss this season is to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles and, as showcased in Buffalo, there’s a lot to like.
MVP of the week
Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Miami Dolphins. Heading into the offseason, the Tua doubters were lined up for miles. He supposedly didn’t look the part or have the arm strength. The Dolphins should look at Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson, they said. Well, the apology line better be just as long because Tagovailoa put in yet another sensational performance, leading the now 7-3 Dolphins to a 39-17 win over the Cleveland Browns. Tagovailoa was almost flawless, passing for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Having weapons like Tyreek Hill helps, but Tagovailoa deserves a boatload of credit for Miami’s surge. His 118.4 passer rating this season is the highest in NFL history by a third-year quarterback.
Video of the week
Tom Brady was trying to showcase his many talents for a German audience, but he was tripped up along the way. By himself. Brady said he would have tackled the defender and prevented the pick had he not been embedded in the ground. Right …
Luckily for Brady, this interception and the one he threw while slumming it as a quarterback mattered little in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ key 21-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Bucs defense was spectacular in the first half, pressuring Geno Smith at will and holding the Seahawks scoreless. On the other side of the ball, the Bucs finally discovered a running attack with Rachaad White earning 105 yards on 22 attempts.
The Munich crowd was brilliant. They nailed the wave, belted out Take Me Home, Country Roads, and stayed in the stadium well after the game, swaying, singing and taking in the spectacle that is the NFL.
Quote of the week
Jim Irsay preened after his unconventional hire of Jeff Saturday worked out in its first week. According to Irsay, Saturday delegated a lot to his assistants who in turn simplified the playbook. The result was a 25-20 win over the hapless Las Vegas Raiders and Josh McDaniels, who broke up with Indianapolis before his head coaching stint was to begin. The Colts coaching staff made the fascinating move to start Matt Ryan who had been benched since Week 7. Ryan, plus a tight offensive line, plus the return of Jonathan Taylor added up to Saturday being 1-0 as a head coach.
Stat of the week
McDaniels started his head coaching career 6-0. Since then, he’s 7-24. McDaniels has the Raiders spiraling: they have lost four straight and are playing undisciplined football. They committed 10 penalties for 74 yards on Sunday. Derek Carr started the game 0-5 but was able to make adjustments. No matter how you feel about the Raiders, it’s worth watching an emotional and “pissed off” Carr after the game. This is not a happy franchise.
Elsewhere around the league
— Former Bears wideout Muhsin Muhammad once called Chicago, “the place where receivers go to die.” Thanks to quarterbacks like Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, and Mitch Trubisky (among many, many, many others) that statement has been proven true. But now it appears the impossible has happened and, in Justin Fields, the Bears have found a quarterback who is not only talented and athletic, but also a delight to watch.
The Bears lost to the Detroit Lions 31-30 on Sunday but Fields stole the show, particularly on the ground. One week after putting up 178 rushing yards, Fields ran for another 147 and was responsible for four touchdowns. Unfortunately he added a timely pick six, but the future looks bright.
— Aaron Rodgers had some not-so-nice words for his head coach Matt LaFleur, who played it conservative in the final two minutes of regulation against Mike McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys instead of trying to win. The Green Bay Packers eventually won 31-28 in overtime and Christian Watson’s breakout game helped overhaul a two-score deficit. But Green Bay are still just 4-6 and the quarterback-head coach relationship looks as frosty as ever.
— TJ Watt made his return to the Pittsburgh Steelers after a seven-game absence and immediately had a couple of tackles. Corner Levi Wallace spoke after the game about Watt’s mere presence, “affecting everything.” The Steelers topped the New Orleans Saints 20-10.