Awful stretch turns 3-0 lead to 20-3 deficit

The Vikings ended the first quarter with a 3-0 lead and an advantage in yards. The next 20 minutes were crushing for the Vikings, who lost the lead and resoundingly lost the yardage battle.

One quarter into the Vikings' 20-16 loss to Buffalo, they were leading 3-0 and had Buffalo pinned on its own 5-yard line as the game moved to the second quarter. What happened over the next 20 minutes was as brutal as any 20 minutes most teams face in the course of a season and created a clearly obvious turning point of the game.

Through one sloppy quarter that included eight possessions between the Vikings and Buffalo Bills, the Vikings held a distinct (if unimpressive) advantage in total yards, outgaining the Bills 73-44 in the first quarter.

Then, as the Metrodome can pay witness to, the roof caved in. From the start of the second quarter until the Vikings' first drive of the second half – which came after a 102-yard kick return from Stephen Burton was negated by a holding penalty – the Bills had outgained the Vikings. Badly. Epically badly.

In the span of 20 minutes, the Buffalo offense gained 246 yards. The Bills defense allowed one yard.

The result was that the 3-0 lead the Vikings took into the second quarter was a 20-3 deficit that the team faced when it came out for its first drive of the third quarter.

Of the four Vikings drives in that span, three of them ended in punts … and those were the good drives. The other ended in points for Buffalo when backup center Joe Berger launched a snap that couldn't have been caught had an NBA center been playing quarterback. It sailed over the head of Matt Cassel and by the time he tried to flag it down (and failed) it was in the end zone and Buffalo fell on the loose ball for a touchdown.

While the Vikings offense was sputtering, the defense wasn't getting off the field. After Buffalo's defense gave it the lead, the Bills offense kept its next drive alive with a pair of third-down conversions and a 12-play drive that ended with a field goal and a 10-3 lead. With the ball on their own 31-yard line with just 38 seconds to play in the half, starting QB Kevin Kolb completed passes of 21 and 22 yards – both that ended when the receiver was allowed to run out of bounds – to set up a field goal as time expired and gave Buffalo a 13-3 lead.

As the game went to the second half, the Bills got the ball first and rookie E.J. Manuel completed all six of the passes he threw, driving the Bills 80 yards (actually 90 thanks to a couple of Buffalo penalties) to a touchdown and, by the time the Vikings offense took the field for the first time in the third quarter, the score was 20-3 and the game, for all intents, was over.

The Vikings rallied to make the final score closer than it appeared, but the bottom line on the Vikings' second preseason game was that, when the frontline starters (sans Adrian Peterson and Jerome Felton) were playing, the game was up for grabs. When the second-line guys were in, they got crushed. A 246-1 disparity in yardage rarely comes out positive and it didn't Friday – as 20 minutes of a 60-minute game turned out to be the turning point.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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