It is already being called the “game of the year” by none other than LeBron James.
In a dramatic finale that required overtime to settle the result, the Minnesota Vikings somehow defeated the Buffalo Bills 33-30 on Sunday, improving their record to 8-1.
Leading 27-10 in the third quarter and still 10 points ahead with five minutes left in the fourth, the Bills were cruising to a regulation time victory, but chaos unfolded around them in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, as the loss took them down to third place in the AFC East division.
And the frenzied atmosphere inside the stadium spilled out onto social media which buzzed with superlatives in an attempt to describe the game.
“Vikings-Bills = best regular season game of the year. Maybe the decade. Maybe ever,” NFL website ProFootballTalk tweeted.
“*screams* THE VIKINGS ARE FOR REAL,” said former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The NFL simply tweeted, “WINNESOTA VIKINGS.”
Much of the build-up to the game was dominated by questions surrounding Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s health after he suffered an elbow sprain in Buffalo’s loss to the New York Jets last week, but that had become a mere footnote by the final whistle.
Any of Allen’s lingering discomfort was alleviated early by the strength of his team’s running game, with Devin Singletary rushing for two touchdowns in the first half.
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Allen appeared to grow in confidence with his passing as the game went on – exemplified by an 11-yard touchdown throw to Gabe Davis in the second quarter – while the Vikings struggled to break down a stubborn Bills defense for much of the game, with the scoreline 27-10 still late in the third.
However, a Vikings resurgence started late in the third with a crazy play from running back Dalvin Cook who ran 81 yards for a touchdown with an incredible burst down the left sideline to give his team a sliver of hope.
CJ Ham rushed for a three-yard touchdown with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter to close the Bills lead to three.
Catch of the year?
As the Vikings attempted to drive down the field to tie or take the lead late in the fourth, Justin Jefferson made arguably the catch of the year, gathering the ball one-handed and somehow keeping hold of it even as he fell to the ground entangled with the Bills defense on a key fourth down conversion.
It was the longest fourth down converted by any team this season, according to ESPN, taking Minnesota from its own 27-yard line to Buffalo’s 41, keeping it in the game.
Jefferson caught 10 balls for a career-high 193 receiving yards, the most by any player in a game this season, and two touchdowns, according to NFL.com
“One of the more remarkable catches I’ve ever seen,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said afterwards, according to NFL.com. “He’s such a special, special player. I’m really proud of the way Justin has battled all season long against a lot of different looks and a lot of different coverages.”
Three times in the final minute, the Vikings almost reached the endzone: one score scratched out on review, another fumbled in sight of the goal line and Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins’ attempted sneak stuffed just short as they turned the ball over on downs.
It seemed as if that defensive stop had sealed the game for the Bills, but when Allen tried to sneak out of his own endzone to avoid taking a safety, he fumbled the ball from a botched snap and it was recovered by the Vikings defense for a remarkable defensive touchdown to take a dramatic late lead.
Minnesota successfully converted the extra point to take a 30-27 lead, but still the game wasn’t over.
It left the Bills with 41 seconds to scramble into field goal range to tie the game, and they did with receiver Gabe Davis making a controversial catch before Allen threw a 15-yard pass to Isaiah McKenzie who rushed for another 15 yards on fourth down. Tyler Bass eventually converted a field goal on the final drive to take the game to overtime.
The Vikings won the toss and Dalvin Cook made a number of impressive plays to drive his team forward, before another Jefferson catch took them to the Buffalo two-yard line.
Cousins failed to lead the team into the endzone – getting sacked for 10 yards on second down – however, and the visitors settled for a field goal of their own.
Although the Bills got the ball back and Allen made several impressive scrambles to get inside field goal range and have a few shots at a touchdown to win the game, Buffalo couldn’t convert the chances and Allen threw his second interception of the game to hand the Vikings the win.
“Losing sucks,” Allen told reporters afterwards. “Sucks this way even worse. Horrendous second half. I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better … It’s on me. Can’t have that.”
The Vikings are now top of NFC North on a seven-game winning streak.