EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings Week 2 tie against Green Bay was one of the most thrilling games in the early portion of the NFL season.
Minnesota rallied to a 29-29 stalemate against its biggest division rival on the road at one of the most historic sporting venues in the country.
But life goes on in the NFL, and the Vikings have now turned the page on the emotional game and moved their attention to Buffalo.
Minnesota enters with a 1-0-1 record while the Bills are winless at 0-2. But don’t expect the Vikings to just be able to march into U.S. Bank Stadium and coast to a win.
“It’s not like college football; you can never look past an opponent,” said Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. “The Bills are a talented team, and sometimes I feel like the most dangerous teams are the ones with their backs against the wall. Certainly when you start off 0-2, you have that mentality.
“It’s important for us to focus on the message we’ve been stressing all week, and that’s to focus on details,” Rudolph added. “For us as an offense, it’s getting lined up right, being on point with our motions and shifts, making sure no stone is left unturned at walk-throughs and practices. We have to be on-point with everything we do this week in order to get a win on Sunday.”
The Vikings play the Bills once every four years based on the divisional rotation of the schedule.
Because Buffalo is an unfamiliar opponent and doesn’t want to fall to 0-3, the Vikings expect the Bills best on Sunday.
“They’ve had some adversity, and usually teams kind of gain ground from adversity and kind of stick together and fight more than they’ve ever fought,” said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. “Every game is going to be difficult. It doesn’t matter the records. They’re all professional football players. We’re going to have our work cut out for us and play good football.”
Added Vikings center Brett Jones: “We just have to take this as if it’s our one and only week to worry about. I think that we’ll do a good job of that. We just have to execute our plan. We know that this team is dangerous, and we’re going to prepare for it.”
Buffalo’s defense ranks last in the league with 78 points allowed through two games. The Bills gave up 47 points in a Week 1 loss to Baltimore before allowing 28 in the first half in Week 2 against the Chargers.
But the Bills turned a corner in the second half last week, allowing just a field goal to Los Angeles.
And in the Week 1 loss to the Ravens, a combination of turnovers and special teams play allowed Baltimore to start inside the Buffalo 30-yard line on four separate drives.
“That’d be great if our defense gives us the ball [in their territory four] times, but that’s not likely to happen,” Rudolph said. “For us to look at them as a team who gave up 47 points and then 28 points in the first half, that’s not a real picture of who they are. They have a lot more talent than that, and this is probably one of the most talented fronts we’ll see all year.”
Offensively, the Bills will start rookie Josh Allen, the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Allen is known for his strong arm and scrambling ability, and will be making his first-ever road start in the NFL.
The Vikings will be ready.
“We respect everybody in our league that we play, but we certainly don’t fear anybody,” Rudolph said. “That’s no different this week.”
Elflein nearing return?
Pat Elflein practiced in full for the second straight day on Thursday, an encouraging sign for the Vikings center who was on the PUP list in training camp and the preseason.
Elflein, a third-round pick in 2017, was an All-Rookie selection by PFWA but has been inactive for the first two games of the season.
“He’s doing good,” said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s been practicing full all week.”
Jones has started at center in each of the Vikings first two games of the season.
Iloka staying ready
George Iloka is still looking for his first defensive snaps with Minnesota.
But the safety is staying ready early on in his Vikings tenure.
“Every week, every day, I learn more and more and feel more comfortable,” Iloka said. “I just have to keep staying at it and see what they got planned for me.
“I know that when my number is called that I’ll be ready,” Iloka added. “I’ll prepare the same, starter or not.”
Iloka, who was signed as a free agent in August, has played 29 combined snaps on special teams through the first two weeks of the season.
For the Vikings: David Morgan (knee), Marcus Sherels (ribs), Dalvin Cook (hamstring) and Everson Griffen (knee) did not participate. Rashod Hill (foot) was limited. Elflein (ankle/shoulder), Matt Wile (wrist), Mackensie Alexander (ankle/thumb) and Holton Hill (ankle) were full participants.
For the Bills: Shaq Lawson (hamstring) did not participate. Phillip Gaines (elbow), Taron Johnson (shoulder), Ray-Ray McCloud III (knee), LeSean McCoy (rib) and Taiwan Jones (head) were limited. Kelvin Benjamin (hip) was a full participant.