By David McDonnell
It was a game for the ages in upstate New York!!!
Anyone watching the NFL could not but have been blown away by the best game of the season and perhaps the most incredible regular season win in Minnesota Vikings history.
Even now, Josh Allen and the Bills mafia must be scratching their heads wondering how they let this victory slip from their grasp but it was a win based on merit even if the circumstances which brought it are still puzzling.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Justin Jefferson, who finished with 193 receiving yards and a number of unforgettable plays during a contest likely to go down in folklore, especially if either side should go on to win the Superbowl.
Vikings v Bills
To say that the contest was decided by the smallest of margins does not come close to telling the tale, so I’ll begin midway through the third quarter and I’ll try to keep the hyperbole to a minimum.
It has been a well-contested affair up to that point and the Super Bowl favourite Bills enjoyed a 17-point lead with two first-half Deven Singletary scores. Then Dalvin Cook rattled off a wonderful 71 yard touchdown run during which he was clocked at a speed of 21.7 miles an hour. It left 10 points between the sides by the start of the fourth quarter.
Soon after Josh Allen was in the redzone looking to extend Buffalo’s lead when he threw an interception to Patrick Peterson. In hindsight this was the first of a number of game-changing plays. Kirk Cousins led the resultant drive and full-back CJ Ham punched it in but a missed PAT by Greg Joseph left four points of a margin.
By the time Cousins got the ball back there was 3.30 left on the clock. On third and long, Cousins was sacked by Von Miller and it left Minnesota with a fourth and 18.
It seemed a hopeless case.
Cousins threw down the sideline and somehow Jefferson managed to pull the ball from a defender’s arm and gain possession by the time he had reached the ground for the best and most important catch of his young and distinguished career to date.
Let’s take a closer look.
Another pass from Cousins to his favourite receiver brought the play inside five yards with just over a minute left on the clock. On third and goal, Cousins again went back to Jefferson and although he was ruled on the field to have scored a touchdown, the video referee judged that the wideout’s knee was down half a yard shy of the endzone.
On fourth and inches, and once again with the game on the line Cousins went for a QB sneak, but he was stopped short and there was a turnover on downs. The Bills players and crowd celebrated a wonderful goal-line stand and it seemed to all that the game was over.
All the Bills had to do was snap the ball and regain possession and time would run out.
However, Allen fumbled the snap into his endzone and Viking linebacker Erik Kendricks came up with the ball from on the bottom of the pile for a go ahead touchdown. This time it was the Vikings turn to celebrate a three point lead after a barely believable happenstance.
With 41 seconds still on the clock. Allen bounced back and led his team up the field to kick a field goal to bring the game into overtime. The Vikings won the coin toss and on third and long, Cousins again found Jefferson in double coverage to extend the drive which ended with a Greg Joseph field goal.
It meant Allen had three and a half minutes to win or tie the game.
On the drive he picked up 46 yards with his feed and converted two passes to Stefon Diggs to bring the play into the red zone. With a win looking on the cards, Allen was intercepted, again by Peterson, to finish the game in dramatic style.
The result drops the Bills to third in the AFC East division with problems defending the run and with their own rushing attack. The Vikings are now 8-1 and they have won their last seven games by less than one score. This week, Patrick Peterson had the honour of wearing the chains on the flight home to Minnesota.
Cowboys v Packers
The second best game of the weekend turned out to be a thriller in Lambeau Field and again it took overtime to separate the sides.
It was a fantastic contest throughout and in the end the small margins made the difference as the Packers snapped a five-game losing streak to beat the highly fancied Cowboys. It adds another chapter to a long storied rivalry between two of the NFL’s most iconic franchises.
Ceedee Lamb had statistically the best game of his career and he opened the scoring in the second quarter, but he was matched by the rookie Christian Watson, who did well tracking a ball over the top for a 37-yard touchdown.
That drive began when Dak Prescott was picked by Rudy Ford and when Ford picked him again, it led to an Aaron Jones touchdown. Dak responded with a two minute drive which ended up with Dalton Schultz leveling the scores by half time.
For Dallas, Tony Pollard had 122 yards on the day and he opened the third quarter with a touchdown and by the start of the fourth, the Cowboys led 28-14, when Ceedee Lamb got his second TD to go with 150 yards receiving on the night.
The Packers running game was very impressive throughout and they rushed for over 200 yards. It allowed Rodgers to use play action which allowed him to make bigger chuck plays down the field. With the Green Bay season on the line, Rogers caught fire finding the rookie Watson for his second and third touchdowns of the contest to send the game to overtime.
The Cowboys won the coin toss and on their drive, they turned down a field goal opportunity and went for it on fourth and two, but were stopped. Rodgers brought his team down to the 10-yard line with a lot of fist-pumping and some passes thrown in for Mason Crosby to kick the winner.
It leaves the Packers second in the NFC North on a record of 4-6. If they can perform like this every week, they would give themselves a great chance of making the NFC playoffs as a wildcard.
Lions v Bears
Another brilliant game involving teams from the NFC North ended up as a shootout between the Lions and the Bears.
Justin Fields scrambled for an impromptu score to leave the score 10-10 at the break.
Two touchdown passes to Cole Kmet saw Chicago into a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The game took on a life of its own when a D’Andre Swift touchdown was followed up soon after when Fields was picked off by his old Ohio State teammate Jeff Okudah to level the scores at 24 apiece.
Not to be outdone by his former Buckeye teammate, Fields answered back by taking off on a great run to score a sensational touchdown, and he even managed to leave Okudah in his dust. Last week Fields scored our Touchdown of the Week and is looking likely to do so again with this brilliant effort.
Very tellingly, the Bears kicker Cairo Santos missed the PAT and the Lions spent the next eight minutes driving down the field and Jamaal Williams scored his ninth touchdown of the season from close range. They had no problem adding the extra point. Fields got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining but a pair of sacks gave Detroit their first away victory in almost two years.
Jimmy Garoppolo had one of his best games for San Francisco as the 49ers edged out the LA Chargers in the late kickoff, where both defences excelled. A pair of touchdowns from one-yard out from Jimmy G and Christian McCaffery won a competitive contest 16-22.
The most interesting play of the game came at half time when linebacker Dre Greenlaw was ejected from the field for a helmet-to-helmet collision with Justin Herbert. Due to the post-Tua update to the concussion protocol, Herbert was also forced to leave the fray but returned for the second half.
After a week of being publicly bashed by everyone in football, Jeff Saturday got his reign as Colts head coach off to a winning start by beating the Raiders. He made a big call by starting Matt Ryan under centre. It paid off when Ryan found Paris Campbell for what turned out to be the winning score. A Jonathon Taylor touchdown in the third quarter was a season highlight for the under-performing running back.
Josh McDaniels and his team are floundering and for the second time in his head coaching career, not having a Bill Belichick coached defence to lean on continues to be a major stumbling block to him winning games.
Miami had their fourth win in a row by overcoming the Browns 17-39 as Tua Tagovailoa passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Their biggest contributor to the win was their ground attack and recent arrival Jeff Wilson ran for 119 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Speaking of the winning teams, Patrick Mahomes threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-17 triumph against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a record of 7-2, they currently hold the best record in the AFC.
Colt McCoy started ahead of the injured Kyler Murray and led the Cardinals to a 27-17 win over the Superbowl champion LA Rams in his 13th season in the NFL. Cooper Kupp had to leave the field with a leg injury and may miss a couple of weeks, although there is not believed to be any fracture.
The New York Giants overcame the Texans with a comfortable win. Sequon Barkley got his sixth touchdown of the season but it was Darius Slayton, who caught the eye when he converted a terrific touchdown.
Kenny Pickens led the Steelers to victory over the Saints on a day when TJ Watt returned to the lineup. It was a poor outing for Andy Dalton, who may very well find himself back on the bench going forward.
The Tennessee Titans handed the Denver Broncos a welcome back 10-17 loss after their recent visit to London. The game will be best remembered for a terrific flea-flicker touchdown by Tristan Westbrook-Ikhine on a busted coverage.
Earlier yesterday afternoon, the Bucs were victorious in an entertaining affair against the Seahawks in in Munich. Here is a link to our match report with the accompanying action: https://tinyurl.com/2s3vk4vz
Later today, we will have a preview of the Monday Night Football contest from the NFC East as the Washington Commanders try to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season.