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Action Reaction: Vikings Didn't Underestimate Bills, But Did Underperform

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings fell behind for a second straight week but were unable to rally against the Bills on Sunday in a 27-6 victory by Buffalo.

Minnesota (1-1-1) suffered from self-inflicted harm, including three turnovers and costly penalties, sputtered to get things going and played on the terms of a Bills defense that thoroughly enjoys rushing the passer.

Pregame question: How would a 2018 Vikings team handle being favored heavily in what some considered a "trap" game?

The Vikings were at home and facing a quarterback making his second career start.

The Bills were winless on the young season and have undergone a considerable amount of transition.

Minnesota was coming in off last week's draining overtime tie at Green Bay and had this Thursday's game at Los Angeles against the Rams also on the calendar.

Players said before the game that they weren't looking past the Bills because they know how tough it is to win any NFL game. They left Sunday with an important reminder about critical components of every football game: protecting the ball and making teams drive the length of the field.

In-game action:

The Vikings lost the field position and turnover battles early, suffering fumbles lost on their third and sixth offensive plays.

The Bills recovered the fumbles by Kirk Cousins at the Minnesota 15 and 25, pushing a seven-point lead to 10 and then 17 less than 10 minutes into the game.

The Vikings totaled four fumbles and lost two; the Bills committed three fumbles but recovered each.

Minnesota also had an interception off a deflection on just its second play inside Buffalo territory (a second-and-10 at the Buffalo 42).

Kyle Rudolph caught Minnesota's lone touchdown on a 14-yard pass from Cousins.

Adam Thielen had a career-high 14 receptions for 105 yards, but most of the damage by the Vikings offense occurred late in the game.

Minnesota's average starting field position for the game was its own 18, compared to the Buffalo 40 for the Bills.

Postgame reaction:

The sideways aspect of the game, which is generally unrecognizable for Vikings teams in recent years, rang a bell to the way that Rudolph felt after Minnesota lost at home to Indianapolis in 2016 and at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game this past January.

"Unfortunately, you go back and look at the last three years of football that we played, we've done this once a year," Rudolph said. "You go back a couple Decembers ago, we had a chance to make the playoffs, and the Indianapolis Colts come in here and just kick our butts.

"Last year in the NFC Championship Game, everybody knows what happened," he continued. "One thing for us is, it happened in September [this time]. So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to learn from it? This could be the best thing for us."

Thielen also said that Sunday's game felt "like the Colts game a few years back" in reference to a home 34-6 loss to the Colts that ended Minnesota's shot at the playoffs. Both of those teams finished 2016 at 8-8.

"It's one of those things with how you start the game," Thielen said. "You have to start fast, and we obviously didn't do that.

"We knew going into the game, and Coach talked about it on film, how good they are," Thielen said. "The tough thing was everybody was talking about how poor the Buffalo defense is. Well, no, they're not. They're a really good defense with how they rush the passer and that comes back to us as receivers, too. We've got to get open quicker and make plays when there so it takes a little pressure off those guys."

Cousins, who went from leading an amazing fourth-quarter rally at Lambeau Field to a frustrating day in his second home start for Minnesota, said Buffalo had fallen victim to field position in previous games.

"I think when we watched the film we felt like they were disadvantaged by some of the things that we did today," Cousins said. "There were turnovers that gave opposing offenses a short field and some things that put their defense in a disadvantaged position, so after only two games it was hard to see. We knew they were a playoff team last year. They played well on defense last year.

"I had played against coach [Sean] McDermott [when the Bills head coach was defensive coordinator in] Carolina, and he had always given me a hard time when I played him, so I just felt that these guys were going to be a challenge, and they were."

Linebacker Anthony Barr said he didn't think the Vikings defense underestimated the Bills. Minnesota, however, did have a couple of miscues in letting rookie Josh Allen scramble, including for a 10-yard touchdown, and had a miscommunication that allowed tight end Jason Croom plenty of space on a 26-yard touchdown.

"It is the NFL, so all teams are capable of coming out and playing at a high level and being successful," Barr said. It wasn't anything like that, it was just a lot of mental mistakes, physical mistakes this week and we'll get that cleaned up."

Rudoph said the quick turnaround could help the Vikings.

"I'd hate to have to wait seven days to play again after playing so poorly today," Rudolph said. "We're going to lick our wounds and get going. We get to go play a really good football team on the road, a team that will be battling for a playoff spot in late December.

"If we want to get to where we want to be at the end of this, this might be a good thing. A kick in the tail every once in a while, helps. Like I said earlier, I'm glad this happened in September. … Maybe, it's a blessing in disguise."

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