The Minnesota Vikings entered Week 10 with a stranglehold on first place in the NFC North. But despite a 7-1 record, they weren't getting a lot of run as a realistic threat to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVII. Part of the reason was the lack of a statement win—Minnesota's victory over the Dolphins in Miami came with Tua Tagovailoa on the shelf, and Minnesota was throttled by the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 2.
After storming back in the second half to knock off the Bills 33-30 (OT) in Buffalo, the Vikings have that signature victory. And while the Vikes have issues, taking out the Bills (6-3) for a seventh straight victory cements their status as a force to be reckoned with.
The Vikings have made a habit of living dangerously—Minnesota hasn't won by double digits since Week 1, and there have been a number of comeback victories. Sunday was no different. When Minnesota fell behind 27-10 in the third quarter, a blowout seemed more likely than a comeback.
But as has been the case all season, there was no quit in the Vikings. They scratched and clawed their way back into the game, and with a minute left they faced a 4th-and-goal from the half-yard line with a chance to take the lead.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was stuffed, which seemingly clinched the game for the Bills. But as Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen attempted to sneak his way out of the end zone, a botched exchange was recovered in the end zone by Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Allen drove the Bills the length of the field to set up a chip-shot field goal that tied the game. Then the Vikings answered with a field goal of their own on the first drive of overtime. Then Allen once again led the Bills into the red zone with less than two minutes left in overtime. But veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson's second interception of the day sealed the deal on one of the wilder wins in recent memory.
While speaking to Pam Oliver of Fox Sports after the game, Cousins credited the team for rallying around one another.
"It was a team win," Cousins said. "All eight of our wins have been that way. We beat ourselves up and then we find a way to claw back. We stay together. It's a tough team, and we keep showing it. We are battle-tested. Would like to win a little more convincingly than this, and there's so much to get better at. But thrilled to come out with a victory against a really good football team."
On some level, it's appropriate that Cousins credited his teammates because they rather bailed him out in this one.
There has long been a narrative surrounding Cousins that while he can pile up stats against bad teams, he withers in prime-time games or against formidable opponents. In some respects, Cousins' performance against the Bills fed into that narrative. Cousins did throw for 357 yards, but he completed just 60 percent of his passes, posted a passer rating of just 71.8 and threw a pair of interceptions.
But as has been the case all season, when one Viking falters, another steps up. On Sunday, it was Cousins' top two weapons who picked up the slack.
Running back Dalvin Cook was outstanding against one of the best run defenses in the league. Cook carried the ball just 14 times, but he piled up 119 yards doing so—including an 81-yard touchdown. He also added 27 yards on three catches.
As good as Cook was against the Bills, Justin Jefferson was awesome. Dominant. Domisome. Aweminant.
All Jefferson did against a Bills defense allowing just over 210 passing yards a game was amass 193 yards by himself. That career best in yardage came on 10 receptions, one of which was the catch of the year in the NFL.
How did he do that?
The Vikings defense did its part as well. Yes, Minnesota's 29th-ranked defense allowed a whopping 486 yards of offense and 30 points. But it's hardly unusual for the Bills to light up an opposing defense, and the Vikings also sacked Allen twice and notched four takeaways.
That's the Minnesota defense in a nutshell. All season, the Vikings have allowed a lot of yards. But they rank in the top half of the league in points allowed, are tied with the Eagles for the most takeaways in the NFL with 18 and rank 10th in the NFL with 26 sacks.
Minnesota bends. But it doesn't break. And when a big play is needed, the Vikings come up with one.
Even in victory, the issues that could derail a deep playoff run by the Vikings were evident. They do indeed give up a lot of yardage. And for all the firepower the Vikings have offensively, at some point it's going to come down to Cousins having to rewrite that narrative surrounding him—to come up big when the pressure is at its highest.
Are the Vikings as complete a team as the undefeated Eagles? No. Minnesota doesn't have a dominant defense like the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers. Cousins isn't Tom Brady, either.
But for all the flak that Cousins gets, he's a capable veteran quarterback. Cook and Jefferson are top-five options at their respective positions. The Vikings have an above-average offensive line. A pair of excellent pass-rushers in Za'Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter. An opportunistic defense that makes big plays when needed. And now the Vikings have demonstrated that they can go on the road and down a Super Bowl contender.
The Vikings might not be the best team in the NFL. Or even the best team in the NFC. But on Sunday, Minnesota served notice to the rest of the league.
The 2022 Vikings are for real. And those who underestimate them do so at their own peril.