In craziest NFL game of the year, Vikings storm back to stun Buffalo 33-30 in OT
Minnesota wins seventh straight to improve to 8-1.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Win or lose, Minnesota Vikings chairman Zygi Wilf often is quite reserved after games. But he didn’t hold back on Sunday after one of the biggest victories the team has had in his 18 seasons of ownership.
“How do like them apples?’’ Wilf said. “This team has fight.”
Indeed the Vikings do. Trailing by 17 points late in the third quarter in a statement game against the powerful Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium, they looked close to done. But Minnesota stormed back to win 33-30 in overtime on a Greg Joseph 33-yard field goal with 3:42 left and a game-clinching interception by Patrick Peterson in the end zone with 1:12 on the clock.
It was the seventh straight win for the Vikings, who raised their record to 8-1. They’re off to their best start since the 2009 team began 8-1 enroute to going 15-1.
Outside of the “Minneapolis Miracle” win over the New Orleans in the 2017 playoffs, it was the most improbable win in recent team history. After all, the Vikings had looked done when they trailed 27-23 and quarterback Kirk Cousins failed to score on a sneak from the 1-yard line with 49 seconds left in regulation.
But on the next play Bills quarterback Josh Allen fumbled the snap, and linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown that put Minnesota up 30-27 with 41 seconds remaining. Allen did momentarily redeem himself on the next drive, leading the Bills to a 29-yard Tyler Bass field goal with 22 seconds left that forced overtime.
“As far as the regular season, that’s got to be one of best games of all time,’’ said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. “It was back and forth. We felt like we won the game and they felt like they won the game and then it felt like we won the game.”
The game was such a whirlwind in the fourth quarter and overtime that Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said there was a “lot to process.” But O’Connell doesn’t need to review the film to know one thing.
“I’m going to remember this one forever,’’ he said.
For Minnesota, it had been considered a measuring-stick game against the Bills (6-3), one of the Super Bowl favorites. Despite their gaudy record, the Vikings hadn’t been getting a lot of respect due to having played a weak schedule and all of their previous six victories being decided by one score.
“Look at us now,’’ Peterson said. “That’s all I can say. … The largest margin was 17. If you’re not a good football team, how can you come back from that deficit?. Look at us now.”
Peterson was one of many Minnesota stars. He had two interceptions of Allen passes, the first also coming in the end zone early in the fourth quarter when the Bills had a 27-17 lead and went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Minnesota 7.
On offense, Cousins shook off two interceptions and finished 30 of 50 for 357 yards with a touchdown. He got support from Dalvin Cook, who had 14 carries for 119 yards and scored on an 81-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that cut the deficit to 27-17, and Justin Jefferson, who caught 10 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Jefferson had the first game-saving play for Minnesota. After the Vikings had trimmed the deficit to 27-23 on a 3-yard touchdown run by C.J. Ham with 4:34 left in regulation, they got the ball back and faced fourth-and-18 at their 27 with two minutes remaining.
Jefferson then snagged a 32-yard reception from Cousins to get a first down and keep the game alive. Both Jefferson and cornerback Cam Lewis went for the ball and the Bills defender had it in his hands before the Vikings star snatched it away while falling to the ground.
“I guess our little strengthening-the-hand workouts kind of worked out. … The whole play was crazy,’’ Jefferson said.
O’Connell had another description for it.
“It was one of the most remarkable catches I’ve ever seen,’’ he said.
The catch didn’t lead to a touchdown on the drive because Cousins soon was stopped short on his sneak. But it led to the Bills being backed up, and Allen fumbling.
“You’re all over the map,’’ Cousins said of his emotions at that point. “You’re expected to get in and I didn’t get in. It was about as close as you get and not getting in. But the defense did a phenomenal job of applying pressure and recovering it.”
Allen, who had been listed as questionable due to an elbow injury before starting, completed 29 of 43 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown along with the two interceptions. It looked as if he was about to lead the Bills to a victory before Minnesota’s dramatic defensive play.
O’Connell said the Vikings work on such situations in practice. And it paid off.
“I knew it was going to be a sneak and they were backed up,’’ Kendricks said. “You can’t just take a knee or it’d be a safety. We put a little pressure on them and the ball dropped and I was at the bottom of the pile and I grabbed it. … We just kept fighting.’’
The Vikings sure. It looked late in overtime as if Allen might lead the Bills to a game-winning touchdown or at least a field goal to tie the score, but Peterson said he “undercut the route” to come up with the interception that “sealed the game.’’
“Losing sucks,’’ Allen said. “It sucks this way even more. … It comes down to my shoulders and my shoulders only.”
Meanwhile, with the win coming over a team considered one of the favorites to make the Super Bowl, it only was appropriate that Jefferson made note of Minnesota’s chances to get to the big game.
“It was unreal,’’ Jefferson said of all the late-game drama. “It felt like a movie. … I told everybody, ‘This is our season for us to win out and to go to the Super Bowl.”’
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