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NFL Sunday takeaways: Vikings top Bills in thriller, Saturday wins Colts debut

The Vikings celebrate Patrick Peterson's interception that sealed their overtime victory over the Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. (Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills played the most compelling game of the NFL season, at least so far.

Jeff Saturday unveiled a pregame surprise as he readied to make his coaching debut for the Indianapolis Colts in Las Vegas, then pulled off an even bigger surprise with a victory in his first game.

Something good finally happened for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the first-ever regular season game in Germany.

It was an eventful Sunday indeed in Week 10 of the NFL season.

The Vikings outlasted the Bills in overtime in an insanely captivating game in Orchard Park, N.Y. They prevailed, 33-30, when cornerback Patrick Peterson made an end-zone interception of a pass by Bills quarterback Josh Allen with a little over a minute remaining in the 10-minute extra session.

This one was highly competitive and wildly entertaining. Allen was in the Bills’ lineup despite missing practices Wednesday and Thursday because of an elbow injury. He may have aggravated that injury while attempting to knock the ball from Peterson’s grasp on a tackle after Peterson’s return of an end-zone interception. Allen remained down on the turf, then got up made his way off the field and stayed in the game.

The Vikings rallied from a 27-10 deficit. They missed an extra point and trailed, 27-23, when wide receiver Justin Jefferson made an otherworldly one-handed catch for a 32-yard gain on a fourth-and-18 play. That led to quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jefferson. But Jefferson, on an instant replay review, was ruled down by contact about a half-yard shy of the goal line. An offside penalty on the Bills moved the ball even closer to the end zone, and the Vikings attempted a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak. But Cousins was stopped shy of the goal line, and the Bills took possession.

Remarkably, Buffalo botched the snap as Allen tried a quarterback sneak to move the ball away from the goal line. Some questioned whether the Bills should have taken an intentional safety. But that would have meant punting the ball to the Vikings with only a two-point lead.

The Vikings recovered the loose ball for a touchdown. They converted the extra point and led, 30-27, with 41 seconds left in regulation. But the Bills hurried down the field, aided by a catch by wide receiver Gabe Davis along the sideline that probably was not a catch. The ball appeared to hit the turf, and former NFL officiating czar Dean Blandino said on Fox, “That’s an incomplete pass.”

But officials did not review the play, and the Bills kicked a tying field goal to force overtime. The Vikings drove to the Buffalo 2-yard line with the opening possession of overtime but were pushed backward and settled for a field goal. The Bills reached the Minnesota 20-yard line, but Allen threw his second interception to Peterson.

The Vikings upped their record to 8-1. There is no debating it any longer: They are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Bills suddenly have a two-game losing skid and, at 6-3, are tied with the New York Jets for second place in the AFC East, a half-game behind the Miami Dolphins. They remain a Super Bowl contender. But they cannot be considered the clear-cut favorite any longer.

NFL contenders beware: A star quarterback is no longer enough

Saturday made an unconventional quarterback switch … and then won. When the former all-pro center and ESPN analyst was hired Monday by Colts owner Jim Irsay as the team’s interim head coach following the firing of Frank Reich, Saturday said Sam Ehlinger would remain the starter at quarterback.

Reich had benched the injured Matt Ryan in favor of Ehlinger, and had said he planned for Ehlinger to remain the starter for the remainder of the season, even after Ryan was healthy enough to play. Saturday seemed poised to stick with that plan. But as the Colts went through pregame warm-ups Sunday in Las Vegas, it was Ryan taking snaps with the starters. And then the Colts announced Ryan would start the game.

Saturday certainly was an unconventional choice as interim head coach, given that he never had coached a game above the high school level. His tenure began with an appropriately unconventional quarterback switch.

It also started with an improbable triumph, as the Colts upended the pitiable Raiders, 25-20. Tailback Jonathan Taylor provided a 66-yard touchdown run. Ryan threw a go-ahead 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Parris Campbell with a little more than five minutes remaining. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore knocked the ball from the hands of wide receiver Davante Adams in the end zone on the Raiders’ fourth-and-seven attempt from the Indianapolis 16-yard line in the final minute.

It remains to be seen if Irsay will be vindicated in the coming weeks and if Saturday will prove to be a viable choice. But for one day, at least, the move did not seem as outrageous as some had portrayed it. The Colts ended a three-game losing streak and won for the first time since Oct. 16. They improved their record to 4-5-1.

Josh McDaniels’s rocky start with Raiders has echoes of earlier flameout

The Packers spoiled Mike McCarthy’s return to Green Bay. McCarthy helped.

Not much has gone as hoped or expected this season for Rodgers and the Packers. But the legendary quarterback and his team finally had something to celebrate Sunday at Lambeau Field. They overcame a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in overtime, 31-28.

Kicker Mason Crosby’s 28-yard field goal with just more than three minutes left in overtime won it for the Packers, who ended a five-game losing streak. It was their first victory since Oct. 2. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes to rookie wide receiver Christian Watson.

McCarthy, the former Super Bowl-winning coach for the Packers, embraced Rodgers on the field before the game. Then he contributed to the Cowboys’ defeat, opting for a fourth-and-three attempt from the Green Bay 35-yard line on the opening possession of overtime instead of sending in kicker Brett Maher for a 53-yard field goal try. Quarterback Dak Prescott was pressured into an incompletion, and the Packers took possession and crafted their winning drive.

The Bucs prevailed in Munich. The Buccaneers overcame a rare interception thrown by Brady, an ill-advised attempt to use their 45-year-old quarterback as a receiver and a comeback bid by the Seattle Seahawks to win the NFL’s first regular season game in Germany. The Bucs beat the Seahawks, 21-16, at Allianz Arena, the home of FC Bayern Munich.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Brady told the NFL Network afterward. “It felt like a really hyped-up game when we came out for warm-ups. So it was pretty electric. And I hope the German fans got what they wanted. A great win by our team. We needed it.”

Brady has now won games in the United States, England, Mexico and Germany. He threw his first interception in 399 passing attempts. He also was the target on a gadget play gone awry on which tailback Leonard Fournette threw an interception while Brady tumbled to the turf and then was called for a tripping penalty on the tackle.

“I slipped,” Brady said. “I wouldn’t have caught it anyway. But I would have tried to tackle him, at least prevent it from being an interception.”

The Buccaneers ran the final 3:58 off the clock after the Seahawks pulled to within five points, winning their second straight game to even their record at 5-5. They’re the NFC South’s only .500 team.

“It feels good,” Brady said. “But we’ve got a long way to go. We’re just 5-5. So trying to figure it out, keep grinding, trying to get better.”

Ron Rivera shields his team from chaos. He got that trait from his mother.

Don’t look now, but the Detroit Lions have a two-game winning streak. They won, 31-30, in Chicago, despite another superb performance by Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, one on a 67-yard dash and the other on a one-yard scramble on which he actually covered 34.2 yards, according to Next Gen Stats, while crisscrossing the field. He ran for 147 yards in all. The Bears amassed 258 rushing yards, giving them five straight games in which they’ve run for more than 235 yards. But even that wasn’t enough to defeat the suddenly competent Lions.

The Dolphins are undefeated in games in which quarterback Tua Tagovailoa starts and finishes. Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes as the Dolphins beat the Cleveland Browns, 39-17, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Dolphins lost a game in Cincinnati in late September after Tagovailoa suffered a concussion and exited, being taken from the field on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. They lost the next two games with Tagovailoa sidelined. They’re 7-0 otherwise. And now they — and not the erstwhile mighty Bills — are the AFC East leaders.

The Los Angeles Rams look just about done. They are the defending Super Bowl champs in name only. They’re 3-6 and on a three-game skid after losing Sunday, 27-17, to the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood, Calif.

The Rams played without quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. The Cardinals placed quarterback Kyler Murray on the game-day inactive list because of his hamstring injury. So it was the Rams’ John Wolford vs. the Cardinals’ Colt McCoy in a less-than-epic quarterback confrontation.

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp had three catches for minus-one yard for the Rams before exiting with an ankle injury. After being all-in on last season and cashing in with a Super Bowl victory, the Rams have gone just about completely bust this season. They never were a built-to-last contender, after all.

Pregame primer: Germany game, Allen’s elbow, Saturday’s debut

The NFL will play its first regular season game in Germany. The Buffalo Bills might have to see if they can win without quarterback Josh Allen at his best. Jeff Saturday will make one of the oddest coaching debuts in league history.

It will be an interesting Sunday in Week 10 of the season, for a variety of reasons.

It begins early, with a 9:30 a.m. Eastern time matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks in Munich, as the league continues to attempt to broaden its international appeal.

This will be the fourth of five games played this season outside the U.S. The first three were played in London. The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers meet Nov. 21 in Mexico City.

The Buccaneers-Seahawks game will be played at Allianz Arena, the home of FC Bayern Munich. The league-owned NFL Network based its morning show in Munich during the week, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand for a live appearance Friday. According to the league, Ticketmaster estimated the NFL had sufficient demand to have sold 3 million tickets to the game.

“Alas, we only have capacity for 67,000 or so lucky fans at Allianz Arena on Sunday,” Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events, said in a midweek conference call with reporters.

The Bills host the Minnesota Vikings in an early-afternoon game in Orchard Park, N.Y., that could have sloppy weather, with the potential for a rain-snow mix in the forecast. Allen participated in Friday’s practice on a limited basis after missing practices Wednesday and Thursday because of an elbow injury. The Bills listed him as questionable on their injury report.

They did not elevate Matt Barkley from the practice squad to the roster Saturday. That leaves Allen and backup Case Keenum as the only quarterbacks on the active roster, suggesting that Allen will play Sunday. The issue could be how effective he is, given his elbow issues.

He has been a durable quarterback, playing every game over the past 3½ seasons despite a sometimes-rugged playing style in which he runs with the ball frequently and is unafraid to take on would-be tacklers. The Bills have spent the season dealing with the demands of being widely regarded as the Super Bowl favorite. They mostly have lived up to those considerable expectations, with a record of 6-2.

But they’re coming off a defeat last Sunday to the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., and now they might have to face the one-loss Vikings. They lead the Jets and Miami Dolphins by only a half-game in the AFC East. Things suddenly have gotten complicated.

That also is true of Saturday, who makes his debut as the interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in a late-afternoon game at Las Vegas. Colts owner Jim Irsay fired Frank Reich as the team’s coach Monday and hired Saturday, a former all-pro center, to replace him. Saturday had been an NFL analyst for ESPN and never has coached above the high school level.

The move has been criticized and mocked all week. The Colts did not have to comply with the NFL’s minority interviewing requirements for head coaching vacancies, which do not apply to the in-season hiring of an interim coach. Some observers called Irsay’s decision an affront to the coaches on the Colts’ staff who were passed over.

Irsay said Saturday was the best candidate for the job. The Colts would not have made any move, Irsay said, if Saturday had rebuffed their interest. Saturday said he was shocked by the offer but is confident in his leadership qualities. He appointed Parks Frazier, the Colts’ 30-year-old assistant quarterbacks coach, to serve as the team’s offensive play-caller.

The Colts are on a three-game losing streak and have not won since Oct. 16. If they beat the Raiders, it would be an improbable ending to a highly tumultuous week.

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