Where did that Bills team come from?

A dominant performance produces a stunning upset for the 17-point underdogs.

Howard Simon
September 23, 2018 - 7:11 pm

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports


Holy *you know what*!!!

I could spend more time trying to come up with a different way to start this column, but I think that expresses what all Buffalo Bills fans were feeling as they watched their beloved team just destroy the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

The Bills did to the Vikings in the first half what the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers did to them the last two weeks and it was completely unexpected. If you told me the halftime score was going to be 27-0, I would’ve told you I wasn’t surprised, but the Bills were the ones handing out the butt-kicking.

A Bills offense, that had managed to score just six points in the first half through the first two games of the season, put points on the board on their first five possessions (touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal). 

A Bills defense that gave up 54 first half points in blowout losses to the Ravens and Chargers, shutout the Vikings while holding them to a total of 46 yards and two first downs. The defense also took the ball away on Minnesota’s first two drives and harassed Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins while sacking him three times. 

I went into this game expecting a loss. In fact, I was expecting Minnesota to cover the 17-point spread. I was just hoping Josh Allen didn’t have a rough day. Considering it was his first road start against, what was, the NFL’s top-ranked defense last season and with the possibility of a noisy indoor stadium providing another challenge, I was prepared to see Allen basically throw up all over himself.

However, the Bills' first round pick in 2018 looked like a seasoned veteran out there. I was really impressed with his poise, his decision making, his ability to get the ball out quickly and accurately and his leadership. His performance also came on a day when the Bills didn’t have their best offensive weapon on the field. LeSean McCoy was inactive due to a rib injury. In the decisive first half, Allen personally accounted for 205 yards of offense (168 passing, 37 rushing) and all three touchdowns. He executed what was an excellent game plan from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll almost flawlessly. 

Daboll should receive a lot of credit for this victory. His plan called for more short, quick passes and it allowed Allen to gain some confidence as the game went on. On the game’s opening drive, Allen completed a wide receiver screen on the very first play and added a tight end screen later in the series. He stood strong in the pocket, took a look at what was out there and took what the defense was giving him. If necessary, Allen used his legs to make plays. His signature moment of the day was actually one of his 10 runs. Allen leaped over Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr to convert a 3rd-and-10 on, what ended up as, a touchdown drive that would extend the Bills lead to 24-0. As amazing as that was to watch, I sure hope he doesn’t do that again. When he went airborne, I was praying he didn’t get hurt.

Allen’s numbers could have been even better. Kelvin Benjamin dropped a pass that would’ve given the Bills a 1st-and-goal at the Vikings' one-yard line. The Bills ended up with a field goal on that drive to go up 10-0.

Allen under threw Robert Foster on a deep throw down the middle after Foster had beaten the defensive back. Foster later dropped a nicely thrown bomb from Allen in the second quarter.

The Bills stayed aggressive on offense even with a big lead. Facing a 4th-and-goal at the Minnesota one-yard line and with a 17-0 lead, Sean McDermott decided to go for it rather than kick the field goal. The 6’ 5” Allen went up over the top of the defense and extended the ball over the goal line for a touchdown.

With that 24-0 lead, the Bills were still throwing the ball late in the first half as opposed to reigning things in and playing it safe by running the ball. They did that in the second half as Allen made just four throws in the final 30 minutes while the Bills ran the ball 18 times.

What can you say about the Bills defense? Maybe that second half performance against the Chargers was the beginning of the turn around. The Bills overpowered the Vikings' offensive line time after time, which made for a miserable day for Cousins. He was strip-sacked on the Vikings' first two drives. It felt like Jerry Hughes spent more time in the Minnesota backfield than the Vikings running backs did. Linebacker Matt Milano was a beast as well as he became the first Bill to register an interception, fumble recovery and a sack in the same game since 2004. 

This was also one of the best tackling days I’ve seen from a Bills defense up until some missed tackles in garbage time in the fourth quarter. The Bills were wrapping up runners and receivers on contact. There wasn’t much in terms of yards after catch for the guys wearing purple. Tre'Davious White shut down star receiver Stefon Diggs, who had just four catches for 17 yards on 10 targets. Think about that for a moment. Cousins ends up throwing 55 times and threw for 200 yards in the fourth quarter because the Bills were letting Minnesota complete throws underneath and chew up time. However, Diggs still had only 17 yards.

How dominant was the Bills' defense? Through three quarters, the Vikings had 90 net-yards and four first downs on nine possessions. The only time they managed to get into Bills' territory four times, but not once until the second half.

What a shot in the arm this was for the 2018 Bills. Maybe this will be like the win in Atlanta last season. It was a game in which very few people gave the Bills a chance, yet they won and the season went in an unexpected direction.  

I don’t if that will happen, but I do know I feel much better about the Bills than I did seven days ago.

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