The Buffalo Bills are going to see Justin Jefferson in his nightmares.
The young Minnesota Vikings star made a convincing case Sunday that he is the best wide receiver in the NFL, finishing with 10 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown in his team’s shocking 33-30 overtime win. over the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium.
The Buffalo Bills fell to the Minnesota Vikings at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park. Here are photos of the game.
In a game full of Jefferson highlights, the biggest came in the fourth quarter. With the Vikings trailing, 27-23, at the two-minute warning, they met on fourth-and-18 from their 27-yard line. Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins threw it and Bills safety Cam Lewis looked be in the perfect position to make the interception or, what he should have done, just knock the pass down.
Instead, Jefferson somehow struggled with the ball and kept the Vikings’ hopes alive with a miraculous 32-yard catch.
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That extended Minnesota’s drive, and two plays later, Jefferson made another catch to gain 14 yards and put the Vikings on the Bills’ 3-yard line. Minnesota was unable to finish off the series, as the Bills’ defense was left standing on the goal line. On fourth down from the Bills 1-yard line, defensive end Shaq Lawson and a host of other defenders stopped Cousins before the goal line.
Surprisingly, however, Minnesota raised on the very next play. Bills quarterback Josh Allen fumbled center Mitch Morse’s fumble at the snap of the first down, and Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered the fumble for a touchdown.
The Bills, however, came back to tie the game in their final drive and send it to overtime.
Again, Jefferson appeared in a big way for the Vikings, making a 24-yard catch to move the ball to the Bills’ 2-yard line. Once again, Minnesota failed to score, but the go-ahead field goal proved to be enough when Allen was intercepted by Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson in the Minnesota end zone on Buffalo’s ensuing drive.
With the loss, the Bills drop to 6-3 and are in third place in the AFC East, with the Jets, also 6-3, owning the tiebreaker.
2. Christian Benford made the first interception of his career. Benford was in the right spot late in the first quarter to intercept a tackle pass from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Seeking out former University of Buffalo wide receiver KJ Osborn, Cousins airmailed the ball and Benford approached it at the Bills 38-yard line. He returned it 35 yards to the Vikings 27-yard line, helping the Bills set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Bass that extended Buffalo’s lead to 17-7 with 12:57 remaining in the first half.
While the interception was a significant individual milestone, it might not have been Benford’s biggest play of the first half. With the Vikings trailing, 17-10, in the second quarter, they met fourth-and-1 from the Bills 28-yard line. Once again Cousins looked for Osborn and once again Benford was there to break up the pass, leading to a turnover on opportunities.
To be clear, it wasn’t a perfect game for Benford. He was in coverage against Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a pair of long completions. Benford also failed to make the tackle in the open field against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook in the third quarter. It was also the last line of defense, which meant Cook ran 81 yards home.
3. Lewis was a surprise starter. Lewis, the former University of Buffalo cornerback, has been transitioning to safety in his third season with the Bills. That change in position took center stage Sunday when Lewis made his first career start in place of the injured Jordan Poyer. Lewis replaced Jaquan Johnson in the Bills’ lineup. Johnson struggled during the Week 9 loss to the Jets. Lewis was given an offensive pass interference penalty on Vikings tight end TJ Hockenson in the second quarter. It was a smart play by Hockenson, because Lewis seemed in position to throw an interception in the Bills’ end zone. Still, the penalty contributed to the Vikings being unable to reach the end zone despite having a first-and-goal from the Bills’ 2-yard line. That turned out to be one of the most significant defensive drives of the game for the Bills.
Lewis left the game with the coaches with 7:56 remaining in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Dean Marlowe.
It was a game the Buffalo Bills didn’t deserve to win…so they didn’t. Here is a summary.
4. Kaiir Elam, Tre White stay out. Another reason the Bills needed to rely on Benford so much is that fellow rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam was sidelined with an ankle injury. Cornerback Tre’Davious White, who has yet to play this season as he recovers from knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, was also inactive for the second straight game since he joined the 53-man roster. In response, the Bills called up Xavier Rhodes from the practice squad for the first time this season.
5. Tremaine Edmunds left with a groin injury. The Bills’ middle linebacker was questioned on the final injury report due to groin and heel injuries. Edmunds played the first half, making three tackles, but it was announced at halftime that it was questionable to return to the game due to the groin injury. Ultimately, he did not return to the field and was replaced by Tyrel Dodson.
6. Jake Kumerow left with an ankle injury. The Bills’ special teams ace was injured in the second half. Kumerow missed several weeks earlier this season with a high ankle sprain, although it was not known if the two injuries were related.
7. Greg Joseph made a big mistake. The Vikings kicker picked a bad time to drop his fourth extra point of the season. After a 3-yard touchdown run by fullback CJ Ham put the Vikings up 27-23 with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter, Joseph’s extra point bounced off the right side and didn’t serve. That meant the Vikings still needed a touchdown to move on and could no longer tie the game on a field goal.
8. Gabe Davis had a great game. The Bills’ No. 2 receiver entered the game with just 18 catches. Partly because of that, a big story that got into the game was how the Bills needed someone on offense other than Stefon Diggs to step up. Davis did just that, finishing with five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Davis reached the end zone with 28 seconds remaining in the second quarter, catching an 11-yard pass from Josh Allen in the front left corner of the end zone.
9. Greg Rousseau was also inactive with the Bills. Rousseau is dealing with a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss weeks. Rookie linebacker Baylon Spector, offensive lineman Justin Murray and tight end Tommy Sweeney were the other Bills inactive.
Minnesota was without starting cornerback Cameron Dantzler and starting defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson. Dantzler was placed on injured reserve.
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