It’s important to point out early on in this series that a team does not have to actually be ass in order to be the Ass Team Of The Week. A team that is very good in aggregate can still plunge to depths of buttness on any given day, as demonstrated by the Minnesota Vikings. They came into this season as favorites to make the Super Bowl, and it’s still entirely possible that they will do just that, but on Sunday, oh boy, they were extreme butt cheek.
The Vikings lost 27-6 to the previously 0-2 Buffalo Bills, and they lost fast. The game was over in 10 minutes, which is a wild thing to say about any game involving a Bills team that had surrendered a combined 78 points in the first two games of the season. And yet, when the Bills went up 17-0 with just over five minutes left to play in the first quarter, it was clear that there was no path to a comeback for the Vikings. They looked like a bunch of hungover college students on the morning of a test they forgot they had.
Anyway, how does a team as good as the Vikings go down 17 points in 10 minutes against a shitty Bills team quarterbacked by Josh Allen? If you were asked to conjure up a nightmare scenario in which such a thing could be possible, it would have to involve two strip-sacks, some uncharacteristically bad throws from Kirk Cousins, and Allen briefly morphing into Michael Vick. Well, buddy, all of those things happened.
If you want to try to and pinpoint the precise moment in which the game got away from the Vikings, you’ll have plenty of options. The two strip-sacks that ended the Vikings’ first two drives of the game deep in their own territory and led to 10 points for the Bills are obvious choices, but the bad vibes started even earlier. The Bills received the opening kick-off, and immediately found themselves facing a third-and-4. Allen dropped back and was sacked on the next play, and the game appeared to have begun with a meek three-and-out and the Vikings in complete control. However, Linval Joseph was called for roughing the passer, and the Bills got to keep their drive alive. They went on to score a touchdown.
Maybe there’s an alternate reality in which Joseph is not called for that roughing penalty, and Allen and the rest of the Bills lose their confidence after being forced into a quick punt on the first drive of the game. Maybe the Vikings get the ball in good field position and take an easy stroll into the end zone for a 7-0 lead, and the rest of game unfolds as everyone expected it to. But the universe had other ideas, and it asserted its will early on. I like to imagine that early penalty as some cosmic being’s way of reaching down, tapping Mike Zimmer on the shoulder, and whispering, “Sorry, asshole, but you’re losing this game.”
Divine intervention is perhaps the only way to explain how this all went down. Every time the Vikings got to a point where it looked like they might have a shot at getting back into the game, something went unexpectedly, terribly wrong. Here we see a series of subatomic vibrations knocking a Cousins pass off course to sail over Stefon Diggs’s head.
Cousins got strip-sacked on the very next play.
Here’s a moment when the Vikings were down 17-0 and desperately in need of a third-down conversion, when the Earth’s rotation slowed ever so slightly and caused Cousins to sail this ball over Adam Thielen’s head:
On the very next Bills drive, the Vikings defense managed to stand tall and force a third-and-long. Surely, this was the moment for them to finally begin the inevitable turn-around, right? The angel who descended from heaven, compelled Allen to tuck the ball and run, and then lifted him over a tackler to get the first down, had other ideas:
That drive would end with another Bills touchdown, and the score would be 27-0 before the end of the half.
Based on the box score, which shows that Minnesota finished the game with more first downs and the same amount of total yards as the Bills, you might think that the Vikings made a brave attempt at a comeback in the second half. That is extremely not what happened. Their first four drives of the second half ended with a punt, an interception, a punt, and a turnover on downs. They ended up scoring their only touchdown and racking up 168 of their 292 total yards on the last two drives of the game, the purest of garbage time. The best thing you can say about the Vikings is that they didn’t let Allen score on them again in the second half. That will seem a lot less impressive when he goes out and throws six interceptions next week and the Bills lose by 30.
Vikings fans shouldn’t worry too much about this game, though. This is still a team that is stacked on both sides of the ball and has as good a shot as anyone at reaching and winning the Super Bowl. The good people of Minnesota should definitely not spend any time thinking about how the offensive line is so bad that it has the potential to sink an entire season. They should definitely not consider the fact that Kirk Cousins may be sort of a head case who isn’t actually good. Do not think about those things, Vikings fans! Do not think about them at all.