OK, who saw this one coming?
The thing to remember about the Buffalo Bills after the first two games was that they weren’t getting hammered by NFL powerhouses. You couldn’t just say they were 0-2 without measuring the results against their opponents. It made their start even worse.
Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers failed to make the playoffs last year. Throw both into the pile of mediocrities making up the majority in this league. The Ravens pummeled the Bills, 47-3, and lost their next game. The Chargers lost their opener before drilling the Bills, 31-20.
Neither would be confused with the Vikings, a chic pick to challenge for the Super Bowl this season. Minnesota, a 16½-point favorite going into Sunday’s game U.S. Bank Stadium, figured to smack around the Bills and shove them back to irrelevancy.
Buffalo was without LeSean McCoy, who was sidelined with torn cartilage in his ribs. The defense was a mess after giving up 78 points in two games. The offensive line couldn’t block anyone. The receivers couldn’t catch anything. They had a player quit at halftime last week, for heavens’ sake.
Face it, the Bills were going 0-16.
Josh Allen & Co., crumpled Sunday’s script into a ball, chucked it into a garbage can and started the garbage can on fire. They refused to play the role of patsy and instead delivered a beatdown for the ages, one that was intended for them, in a 27-6 victory over the Vikings.
The score was predictable. The result was not.
Now, what does it mean?
For starters, the Bills showed they can beat any team in the league, on the road, on any given Sunday. Allen is making progress with every series, and the game is slowing down in his head. NFL parity is very much intact. Minnesota isn’t that good. The Bills have a chance to beat the Packers on the road next week.
Still, you would need to dive deep into Bills’ history for a game in which they were widely expected to get demolished and ended up winning. Try 34 years, in a season that ended like many predicted this one would, with the Bills finishing 2-14.
In 1984, the Bills lost their first 11 games when Dallas showed up at Rich Stadium for what many believed would be an easy win. Greg Bell scored on an 85-yard run in the first quarter to lead the 0-11 Bills to a 14-3 victory over a Dallas team that was expected to bury Buffalo.
But this? Nothing like this.
All together now: That’s … why … you … play … the … game.
Allen was superb in his second career start while scoring two touchdowns and completing 15 of 22 passes for 196 yards and a passing TD. He was confident and composed from the opening series. He controlled the clock in the second half and looked like a franchise QB. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, looked like a rattled rookie for the Vikings.
Allen, the seventh pick overall, was 12 of 19 for 172 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He would have thrown for well over 200 yards in the first two quarters if not for a few catchable passes that fell incomplete. Buffalo outgained Minnesota, 245-46, in the first two quarters.
Buffalo allowed only 22 yards in the first quarter while playing against Cousins, supposedly the missing piece in Minnesota’s quest for a championship. He had 96 yards passing with his team trailing by 27 points going into the fourth quarter. The Vikes didn’t score until Cousins found Kyle Rudolph with 2:59 remaining.
The Vikings were prone to getting caught in a trap game, overlooking the Bills while turning their attention to Thursday night’s road game against the Los Angeles Rams. Could you blame them given the Bills ineptitude and inferior talent on display in the first two weeks?
Buffalo came out swinging, particularly on defense, and had a 17-0 lead before Minnesota knew what hit them. The Bills’ D had been roundly criticized for its play, and deservedly so, after giving up 78 points. It showed up ready to fight Sunday.
Sean McDermott took over defensive play-calling at halftime against the Chargers, a move that some considered an insult to defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. No matter, the Bills have allowed nine points in six quarters after the switch.
Who did McDermott honor with a game ball afterward? Leslie Frazier, whose defense dominated Sunday.
The defense forced fumbles on the Vikings’ first two possessions, enabling Buffalo to stack 10 points atop a 7-0 lead built after Allen led a 75-yard touchdown march to start the game. Seventeen points is within reach, but a 27-0 halftime lead seemed insurmountable.
And it was.
Bills linebacker Matt Milano had a sack, fumble recovery and an interception in the first three quarters. Jerry Hughes was everywhere Sunday. Rookie Tremaine Edmunds played better in his third career game than he did in the first two. The Bills were decidedly better in all phases.
Allen looked comfortable and confident all afternoon. He would have completed his first seven passes if not for two drops by Kelvin Benjamin, who is wearing out his welcome in Buffalo. Benjamin has become a liability for a team that already had enough.
The game Sunday was supposed to be a major test for Allen, who was starting his first game on the road before an amped-up crowd. After the Bills grabbed a big lead in the first half, U.S. Bank Stadium sounded like KeyBank Center did last season on some Wednesday in March.
Allen scored his first NFL touchdown on a 10-yard run after diving and tucking the ball just inside the pylon. It was a great play after he examined the field, slipped away from the pocket and used his athleticism to beat the Vikings’ defenders to the goal line.
Cousins had 669 yards passing and six TDs in the first two games. He had 200 of his 296 yards in the fourth quarter Sunday, when it mattered least. He was sacked four times.
OK, who saw that coming?