McFeely: Odds are, you didn't see this Vikings loss coming
MINNEAPOLIS—One play by Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen was everything the Minnesota Vikings were not.
Energetic. Exciting. Athletic. Fearless. Joyful. Entertaining.
Allen, the Bills' much-touted rookie out of Wyoming, did his best Superman impression near the end of the first quarter of Buffalo's 27-6 thrashing of the Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 23, at an angry U.S. Bank Stadium, hurdling Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr near midfield for a first down.
The third-down play kept alive a drive that resulted in a touchdown, poking a sharp stick even deeper in the Vikings' collective eye.
"I was not expecting that by any means," a subdued Barr said in a subdued Vikings locker room after the game.
That would pretty much sum up the afternoon for the 66,800 booing customers inside the stadium, the Las Vegas bookmakers and maybe even your Aunt Sally who knows nothing about the Vikings, Bills, Allen or the NFL.
Allen was all-world in the first half. He scrambled for a diving touchdown for the game's first score, snuck 1 yard for another on fourth down, hit wideout Jason Croom for a 26-yard TD strike and generally looked like a quarterback completely comfortable playing against the alleged fearsome defense of the Vikings. Allen finished the first two quarters 12 of 19 passing for 172 yards.
And the Vikings?
They owe you an apology. Or a refund, if you were unfortunate enough to buy a ticket to this fiasco. For a team marketed as a Super Bowl hopeful, as one that literally blamed a now-deposed rookie kicker for not beating Green Bay last week, this was an embarrassment.
"You have to do certain things to win a football game and we didn't do any of them," Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said. "That was a butt-whooping."
The Vikings entered the game as 17-point favorites over the allegedly lowly Bills. They exited as team that has us asking whether this loss was more disgusting than the 41-doughnut debacle in the 2001 NFC Championship game. Or any of the other unexpected losses the franchise has suffered.
"It's hard to rank it because I don't have a list in front of me," Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "It's certainly not what we wanted."
The Bills are supposedly one of the NFL's doormats. The Vikings are allegedly one of the best. Yet Minnesota showed no urgency, no apparent preparation, no brains and no heart. Buffalo lost 47-3 in Week 1 to Baltimore and 31-20 in Week 2 to the Los Angeles Chargers. Its defense gave up more points than any other NFL team through the season's first two weeks.
Yet it was Minnesota's $84 million quarterback, Cousins, who played like an overmatched rookie. He threw for 44 yards in the first half and lost two fumbles on strip-sacks. Those turnovers game Buffalo short fields the Bills turned into points. Cousins missed Stephon Diggs and Thielen on passes that would've kept drives alive.
With a nationally televised game coming up Thursday against the equally highly touted Los Angeles Rams, the Vikings could be blamed for overlooking the Bills. Zimmer and his players, of course, denied it.
"I don't think we took them too lightly," Zimmer said. "I think they came out and kicked our butts."
Which makes one wonder which is worse for a team with title aspirations: Overlooking an inferior opponent or getting manhandled by an inferior opponent?
The former is one from which a team can recover. It's not so easy when it comes to the latter.