Notebook: Defense improves but can’t finish

The end of the game was painfully familiar in a 17-16 loss to Buffalo, but there was plenty to like from the Vikings defensive front Sunday.

Vikings fans likely aren’t going to have happy memories of Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills, but despite the gut-wrenching loss, the Vikings defense put in a strong performance before gassing out in the final three minutes.

The Vikings got a big day from their defensive line, getting six sacks and pressuring Kyle Orton all day long. Heading the hit list was defensive end Everson Griffen, who recorded three sacks and increased his season total for the season to seven. Also getting in on the action were Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson, who recorded one sack each.

“I thought a lot of guys did some good things, we just didn’t get it done,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

With the exception of a 53-yard burst from C.J. Spiller, the defense did a good job of bottling up the run game, too. Prior to the last drive, the defense had held Orton to less than 180 passing yards. However, due to sacks and penalties, Orton threw for 105 yards on the final drive.

In the end, all that will likely be remembered from Sunday’s heartbreaking loss will be the disappointing finish, but the Vikings are playing the type of defense up front that will win games down the line. That may be little consolation today considering how the game finished, but there are some positives to take away from Sunday’s game – even though it may not look like it.

“If you go back and you look at the things that we’re working on and improving on – playing the run, other than that one long run I thought we played the run well this week. The third-down conversions has been better,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer has talked about changing the culture of the defense and a lot of that starts up front. It may not have translated into a win Sunday, but there is something to feel positive about on a very negative day for the Vikings.


  • The Vikings had to play much of the game without two of their starting offensive linemen. Center John Sullivan and guard Vladimir Ducasse were both lost to injury in the first half – Sullivan with a concussion and Ducasse was a knee injury. Sullivan was replaced by Joe Berger and Ducasse was replaced by Mike Harris.

  • Buffalo had its own problems with depth, losing running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the first half. Jackson went down with a groin injury and Spiller was injured at the end of a 53-yard run with a shoulder injury.

  • Head coach Mike Zimmer coached from the sidelines while suffering from kidney stones. Zimmer is expected to have a procedure Tuesday to remove the stones, FOX reported.

  • Jerick McKinnon posted his second career 100-yard game, rushing 19 times for 103 yards. McKinnon’s 29-yard run in the second half was the longest run allowed by Buffalo all season. McKinnon was the first rusher to gain 100 yards against the stout Buffalo defense.

  • Buffalo has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

  • The Vikings defense was active in the first half, causing three Buffalo turnovers – a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception by Robert Blanton. They finished the game with four turnovers – three fumble recoveries and an interception.

  • Teddy Bridgewater had interceptions on consecutive passes in the second quarter, both picked off by Leodis McKelvin.

  • Bridgewater threw a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson in the second quarter, and it was Bridgewater’s first career TD pass. It broke a streak of 21 quarters without a TD pass by the Vikings.

  • Blair Walsh tied a career long with a 55-yard field goal late in the first half.

  • Walsh has 52 points on the season, 42 coming on field goals and just 10 from extra points.

  • In the last three games, the Vikings have scored just two touchdowns and had to settle for five field goals.

  • The Vikings have scored 16 or fewer points in all of their five losses and have just three touchdowns in those five losses.

  • The finish to the game was all too familiar to Vikings fans. Last year, the Vikings lost leads in the final minute of regulation five times.

  • Greg Jennings had just 20 catches in the first six games, but had six catches for 77 yards Sunday, including five catches in the first half.

  • Patterson was all but invisible again Sunday. Although he caught a touchdown, he caught just two passes for nine yards and had one rush for three yards.

  • Buffalo rookie Sammy Watkins had a huge day, catching nine passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with one second remaining.

  • The Bills had nine different receivers catch passes, including six who caught three or more.

  • In his first game back from broken ribs, Chad Greenway was in on 15 tackles Sunday to lead the Vikings. Anthony Barr had 10 tackles, eight of them solo tackles.

  • The two teams combined for 11 sacks – six by the Vikings, five by Buffalo.

  • With the win, Orton improved his record as a starter to above .500. In 73 career starts, he has a record of 37-36.

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