Big pass plays lead to last-second loss

The Vikings had the Bills where they wanted them several times in the final drive but couldn’t finish the job.

There are games that can define a season and, unfortunately for the Vikings, on a day when the Minnesota defense had played well all day long, an 80-yard drive in the final three minutes resulted in a heartbreaking turning point in a 17-16 loss.

The Vikings held a 16-10 lead with 3:07 to play in their game with the Buffalo Bills and had been abusing quarterback Kyle Orton most of the day. But when the chips were down, Orton was able to come up with the big plays that made the difference in Buffalo’s come-from-behind win.

Starting from his own 20-yard line, Orton picked up a first down with a pair of short passes and at the 2-minute warning, he dipped a 19-yard pass to rookie Sammy Watkins at midfield.

Coming out of the 2-minute break, the Vikings appeared to have the game salted away as sacks by Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson left the Bills facing fourth-and-20 from their own 40-yard line. The odds of converting plays like that are miniscule, but tight end Scott Chandler dipped underneath Chad Greenway and Orton delivered a strike – good for 24 yards and a first down, forcing Buffalo to burn its second timeout with 1:18 to play.

Two plays later, facing a third-and-12 from the Minnesota 38-yard line, Orton fired an 18-yard pass to Watkins for another first down with the ball on the 20-yard line. On the play, Buffalo was forced to use its final timeout with 42 seconds left.

Once again the Vikings looked to have the game potentially wrapped up after an intentional grounding call was made on Orton for throwing the ball away to avoid another sack. Not only did the penalty cost them 10 yards, but also resulted in a 10-second runoff on the game clock, putting the Bills back to the 30-yard line with 27 seconds left.

On the next play, wide receiver Chris Hogan was one-on-one with Xavier Rhodes and Orton threw up a jump ball that Hogan out-battled Rhodes for, coming down on the 2-yard line. With the clock ticking, Buffalo’s offense ran up to the line of scrimmage and Orton spiked the ball with five seconds to play.

With time for probably just one play, Orton went back to his main man Watkins. He threw a dart to the left sideline and Watkins made the catch, dragged both feet in bounds and came away with a touchdown with one second left on the clock.

For all the good things the Vikings defense did Sunday, it was the inability to stop the big pass plays – completions of 19, 24, 18 and 28 yards – that allowed the Bills to come away with a 17-16 win and leave the Vikings facing a devastating turning point and dropping their record to 2-5.

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