MINNEAPOLIS — Less than one minute into Sunday's game, it appeared the Vikings defense was off to a good start.
Linebacker Eric Wilson had crashed into the backfield for a sack on Bills quarterback Josh Allen, and it appeared Buffalo would punt after a quick three-and-out.
But the Vikings were flagged for a personal foul on the play, giving Buffalo's offense new life.
Minnesota's defense never recovered, setting the stages for a disastrous first half as the Vikings were embarrassed 27-6 at home by the Bills.
"We started poorly," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said before correcting himself. "Actually, we started good. We go three-and-out and get a penalty for a hit on the quarterback.
"Then I think we got another penalty on that drive," Zimmer said. "When you get penalties, it leads to points … that's just how things go."
The Bills quickly engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive, getting 25 yards on Minnesota penalties.
"It definitely zapped us momentum-wise," said Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly. "But that's something we as a team should be able to overcome. It was just a lack of execution overall."
Buffalo's first touchdown came via the legs of Allen, a rookie making his first career road start. He took off with nobody around and scored from 10 yards out on the ground.
Although the Vikings had talked all week about keeping Allen in the pocket, he finished with 10 carries for 39 yards. None were bigger than his early touchdown run.
"He was much more mobile than we gave him credit for," said Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. "He definitely hurt us with his feet a lot today."
Added Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks: "He's a mobile quarterback. He made some plays on the run. We have to respond and play better."
The Vikings defense wasn't given much of a chance on the next two possessions, as a pair of fumbles by quarterback Kirk Cousins gave the Bills excellent field position.
"We asked too much of our defense having to be out on the field so much," Cousins said. "Very little time of possession for us.
"We needed to convert third downs and stay on the field to give them a breather," Cousins added.
Minnesota limited Buffalo to a field goal after the first fumble, but the Vikings defense left Buffalo tight end Jason Croom wide open on a 25-yard touchdown pass that made the score 17-0.
"Offensives scheme for us and we game plan for them," Kendricks said of the defensive breakdown. "It's about the adjustments we make … we have to communicate better and do better on defense."
"We come to play to win. The first quarter was bad in all sides of the ball," Kendricks later added. "They hit us in the mouth, and we couldn't respond."
Buffalo added 10 more points in the second quarter, with Allen scoring on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. That score was set up by another mishap, as Bills running back Chris Ivory slipped out of the backfield unnoticed for a 55-yard catch and run.
The Vikings trailed 27-0 at the end of one of the worst halves in recent years by a Minnesota defense.
The Vikings allowed 246 total yards of offense and had three costly penalties for 33 yards on defense.
Minnesota responded in the second half, allowing just 46 yards of offense.
But by then it was too late, as a poor showing in the opening 30 minutes doomed the Vikings for the entirety of Sunday's contest.
Zimmer said he unit had an up-and-down day against the Bills, who also had three fumbles but recovered them all.
"Well, turnovers never help, and where they [occurred] was not good. But the defense has to come out and stop them," Zimmer said. "We had some chances to come out today and get some turnovers on defense; the ball didn't bounce our way.
"I thought at some points we rushed good on the quarterback, and then sometimes we'd beat a guy and then he'd get out and go," Zimmer added. "We lost the back in coverage one time on a scramble, and then in the wheel route there at the beginning of, I think, the first touchdown. It was a miscommunication."
The Vikings will now get ready for a short week on the road. Minnesota plays at the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday evening. Kickoff is at 7:20 p.m. (CT).
"We're looking forward to getting back out there Thursday and doing a lot better than we did today," Barr said.
Added Kendricks: "You can't really point the finger at anybody but yourself and be better."
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Buffalo Bills at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.