Analysis: Vikings, Bucs, Packers, Colts make big statements
Bust out the victory chains. The Minnesota Vikings proved they’re for real.
After piling up wins against losing teams and backup quarterbacks, the Vikings earned a signature victory on the road against the Buffalo Bills.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jeff Saturday and the Indianapolis Colts also made big statements on Sunday.
The Vikings overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit in a difficult environment to improve to 8-1 with a thrilling, improbable 33-30 overtime win over Josh Allen and the Bills.
There’s no doubting Kirk Cousins anymore. He rallied the Vikings to their fifth win this season when trailing with 2 1/2 minutes or less remaining. Cousins threw for 357 yards, including a 32-yarder on fourth-and-18 to Justin Jefferson, who made an incredible, one-handed snag to keep Minnesota’s final drive of regulation going.
Patrick Peterson sealed the win with an interception in the end zone, and took the gold chains from Cousins for the celebration on the flight home.
The Vikings opened the season with a convincing win over the Packers but were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles in a Monday night game in Week 2. They’ve won seven in a row since that loss, but their only win over a team with a winning record in that span came against the Miami Dolphins minus Tua Tagovailoa last month.
Beating Allen and the Bills (6-3) on their turf solidifies Minnesota’s status as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Now, the schedule gets tougher for the Vikings. They face the Cowboys (6-3), Patriots (5-4) and Jets (6-3) at home the next three weeks.
Rodgers and the Packers are a long way from thinking about a championship, but they’re not done yet. Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter, vintage Rodgers led the Packers back to a 31-28 overtime win against the Cowboys, which have one of the league’s best defenses.
The Packers (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak but are still 1 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the third wild-card spot. However, Rodgers may have finally found his go-to receiver. Rookie Christian Watson caught four passes for 107 yards against Dallas, including touchdowns of 58, 39 and 7 yards.
If the Packers find a way to get into the playoffs, they’ll be an opponent that teams don’t want to face because of Rodgers.
Another No. 12 seems to have his team back on track.
A week after Brady led a game-winning drive in the final 42 seconds against the Rams, the Buccaneers showed signs of being the dominant team they’ve been the past two years. Rookie Rachaad White and Leonard Fournette combined for 162 yards rushing and Tampa topped Seattle 21-16 in the first NFL regular-season game in Germany.
The defense overpowered the Seahawks and forced a turnover for the first time since Week 4, and the Buccaneers (5-5) took a one-game lead in the weak NFC South.
If the Buccaneers continue to have success running the ball and the defense keeps playing tough, Brady makes them a threat in January.
The Colts aren’t going anywhere in the competitive AFC, but they’re not a laughingstock either. A turbulent week that began with owner Jim Irsay firing coach Frank Reich and taking intense criticism for hiring former All-Pro center Jeff Saturday to be the interim coach ended with Matt Ryan returning from injury to lead a 25-20 upset win at Las Vegas.
Saturday, who took plenty of heat for taking the job without paying his dues as an assistant coach, proved he’s no joke. The Colts’ struggling offensive line played inspired football, paving the way for 207 yards rushing and allowing just one sack.
If the Colts (4-5-1) keep improving, Saturday could end up keeping the job after the season despite all the criticism.
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