There were sensational developments on offense for the Vikings on Sunday during their game against the Buffalo Bills. Brett Favre was lost early to injury and Tarvaris Jackson filled in, Adrian Peterson ripped off 107 yards and 3 scores on the ground and Sidney Rice looked to be in 2009 form with 2 highlight-caliber TD catches.
But as significant a factor to the outcome of the game as any of that was the performance of the Vikings defense and how it impacted Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Vikings defensive line, and specifically DE Jared Allen, pestered Fitzpatrick all afternoon and forced him into several mistakes.
Fitzpatrick’s stat line looked like this after the game: 15 of 25 for 158 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT for a passer rating of 75.1, sacked once, fumbled 3 times with 2 lost fumbles. You may remember Fitzpatrick struggling in Minnesota because he was the Rams QB in 2005 and didn’t have any more success back then, either. His stat line looked like this after the game: 26 of 45 for 235 yards with 0 TDs and 5 INTs for a passer rating of 32.4, sacked once and fumbled once in a 27-13 loss.
Add those 2 performances up and you’ve got just 1 TD compared to 6 INTs, just a 58.5 completion percentage, 8 total turnovers and an 0-2 record. It’s not fair to judge Fitzpatrick as a QB based on these 2 performances, though. He’s a 5-year veteran out of Harvard who took over starting duties for Buffalo this year after Week 2. Since then he’s had several nice passing performances, including 5 multi-TD outings and 4 games with 250+ yards passing.
The bottom line is playing on the road is tough, regardless of where you’re playing.
“Any time you play on the road they get off a little better, the defense does,” Fitzpatrick explained after the game. “I think it becomes a little bit of an issue but that happens every week you play on the road so it’s not something that is new to us.”
While it is tough to play on the road no matter where you go, the Vikings do benefit from a distinct home-field advantage at Mall of America Field, and Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier will be the first to acknowledge that and in fact point it out.
“Having our fans is a huge lift for our football team,” Frazier said after the game. “We’ve got, in my mind, the best fans in the National Football League and it was on display today. Our players fed off of that energy and particularly our defensive line. It looked so much like the defensive line we’ve all become familiar with here in Minnesota. They did a great job getting off the ball and keeping Buffalo’s offense off guard a little bit.”
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