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What to know from NFL Week 10: The Bills-Vikings epic stole the show

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson hauls in a miraculous catch during the fourth quarter of Minnesota's game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. (Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

Once again Sunday afternoon, along came a game that explained how so many people can put up with so much from the NFL and keep coming back for more. It erupted from a snoozer to a white-knuckler to an all-out epic. It made you turn to the person next to you on the couch and ask if what you had just seen was real or CGI. It made you overlook all of the league’s off-field ills.

Here is what to know from Week 10.

The Bills and Vikings played the game of the year. What seemed like an intriguing matchup of a Super Bowl favorite and an untested contender became, by the end of the day, part of NFL lore. The sequence at the end of regulation alone contained a universe.

On fourth and 18, with Minnesota rallying from what had been a 27-10 deficit, Justin Jefferson and his superhero-grade arms made a leaping, one-handed catch that immediately landed on the shortlist of the best anybody had ever seen. Jefferson appeared to finish the drive with a touchdown, only for the call to be reversed and Jefferson ruled down inside the 1. Kirk Cousins attempted a sneak on fourth down, only to be thwarted by a wall of Bills linemen.

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The Bills had sealed a victory with a stirring stand — until they hadn’t. On the next play, disaster arrived for Buffalo: Allen pulled away too soon and fumbled Mitch Morse’s snap. Linebacker Eric Kendricks pounced on the loose ball in the end zone. A clock-draining plunge for Buffalo became a go-ahead touchdown for Minnesota.

But Allen still had 41 seconds, and he steered the Bills downfield with a mixture of precise passes and powerful scrambles, putting to rest any concern about the injured ligament in his right elbow. On one run, he made Minnesota defensive backs look as if they were trying to tackle a Buick. A close call on a diving Gabe Davis catch, curiously not reviewed, certainly helped. Tyler Bass’s chip-shot field goal sent it to overtime.

Once there, Buffalo experienced a too-familiar letdown. Its defense couldn’t hold, and its offense made a backbreaking error. The Vikings kicked a field goal, then Allen threw an interception into the end zone, giving away a near-certain chance to tie and a good chance to win.

The Bills, now in third in the AFC East, cannot be regarded as a juggernaut, primarily because of their end-of-game woes. They have not scored a second-half touchdown in three consecutive games and have been outscored 43-12 after halftime during that stretch. More alarming, they are 1-10 in one-possession games, playoffs included, since the start of last season. When it counts, the Bills glitch. It falls on Coach Sean McDermott and Allen to improve.

The Vikings, meanwhile, need to be taken seriously. As they compiled a gaudy record, their lack of dominance and dearth of elite competition created justified skepticism. A victory at Buffalo legitimizes them, despite their shaky secondary and the mistakes constantly lurking over Cousins’s shoulder. But no matter how their season unfolds, they won Sunday at Buffalo. They will remember it forever.

Justin Jefferson is a bad man. Few players could have stood out amid the pyrotechnics, but Jefferson is one of them. He made the catch of the … year? Decade? Century?

The Vikings faced fourth and 18 inside their own territory coming out of the two-minute warning. Cousins heaved a pass over Jefferson’s head. Jefferson leaped, snared it at the top of his reach with one hand and landed with a defensive back draped on him, somehow cradling the ball inches off the ground.

It evoked Odell Beckham Jr.’s famous one-handed catch, but with more height on the leap, against better defense and in a more important situation. It looked impossible. It was also one of 10 catches Jefferson made Sunday, for 193 yards and a touchdown.

The game only strengthened the connection between Jefferson and the Bills, who traded the first-round pick that became Jefferson to the Vikings three years ago for Stefon Diggs. Neither team would take back that deal. It’s one of the best win-win trades in NFL history.

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We’ll be seeing Tom Brady in the playoffs. The Buccaneers’ season rode the ragged edge of disaster for the first two months. Brady’s personal hardships, the transition to Todd Bowles as coach and the sudden aging of Tampa Bay’s core spawned cranky attitudes and stale football. After 59 minutes last week, the Buccaneers appeared headed for a 3-6 record, a four-game losing streak and the muddle of the NFC South.

In both performance and vibes, things have flipped. The Buccaneers capitalized on the momentum from Brady’s last-minute touchdown drive to beat the Los Angeles Rams last week by defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 21-16, on Sunday in Munich. Tampa Bay will head into its bye at 5-5 after its best offensive game of the season — and with a one-game lead in the division thanks to Atlanta’s loss to Carolina on Thursday.

The Buccaneers desperately needed punch in their running game, and they may have found it in rookie running back Rachaad White. With Leonard Fournette fighting an injury, White gained 105 yards on 22 carries. After Seattle rallied in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay turned to White to drain the clock, never giving Geno Smith a chance down by less than one score.

The trip to Germany also seemed to boost Brady, who had been in a dour mood all year as he went through a divorce after an offseason he partially spent retired. He called playing in Germany “one of the great football experiences I’ve ever had.”

Most likely, the Bucs have shown who they are and won’t pose a serious threat in the postseason. But Brady has bought more time to figure out the Bucs, and would you want to bet against him?

Jeff Saturday is 1-0. The Colts stunned and, in many cases, angered the NFL world when they replaced Frank Reich with Saturday, a franchise icon as a player who had never coached above the high school level. Many former coaches viewed it as an insult that team owner Jim Irsay would hire a coach without experience and then declare he liked that Saturday’s lack of experience would let him coach without “fear.”

What in the name of Hebron Christian Academy happened in Las Vegas? The Colts went back to deposed starter Matt Ryan and upset the spiraling Raiders, 25-20. The move to Ryan was curious, given that Irsay reportedly had influenced Ryan’s benching for ineffective rookie Sam Ehlinger. Did Irsay have a change of heart? Did he let the interim coach pick his quarterback?

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Maybe the most pertinent question: What does it say about the Raiders that they lost to the Colts? In his first season in Las Vegas, with a roster that made the playoffs last year and added Davante Adams in the offseason, Josh McDaniels is 2-7, the second-worst record in the NFL. Since McDaniels started 6-0 with the Denver Broncos in 2009, he is 7-24. He didn’t get to finish his second season in Denver. He might not get a second season in Las Vegas.

The Dolphins are a machine. They are alone in first place in the AFC East at 7-3 after their 39-17 demolition of the Cleveland Browns. They have scored 31, 35 and 39 points in their past three games, and given the weaponry at Coach Mike McDaniel’s disposal, it’s hard to see how many opponents will hold them under 30.

In games Tua Tagovailoa starts and finishes, the Dolphins are 7-0 and averaging 29.1 points. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are an unsolvable problem, their speed forcing the defense to cover every inch of the field. If it spreads out, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert can bludgeon opponents with the running game McDaniel imported from San Francisco. Tagovailoa is playing with confidence and making decisive, high-level passes.

The Dolphins are on a bye next week and play the Texans at home afterward before a three-week stretch that may define their season: road games vs. the 49ers, Chargers and Bills. Those are teams they should be measuring themselves against. They can win the Super Bowl because on any given day they can outscore their opponent, regardless of who it is.

Christian Watson said hello. It had been a frustrating season for Watson, the wide receiver out of North Dakota State whom the Packers drafted in the second round ostensibly to replace Davante Adams. In the season opener, he dropped an easy touchdown. He spent one week in the concussion protocol and had to leave another game with a chest injury. He showed his explosive speed, but mostly he was a gadget receiver who couldn’t be relied upon.

Watson’s status in Green Bay transformed Sunday during a 31-28 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers trailed 28-14 in the fourth quarter before Watson’s second and third touchdowns of the day tied the score — and may have saved Green Bay’s season.

Before Sunday, Watson had caught 10 passes for 88 yards. Against the Cowboys, he caught four for 107, including the first three touchdown receptions of his career. Whether his emergence can make a difference for the Packers remains to be seen. But it at least suggests their crucial draft pick won’t be a bust.

Justin Fields is an outrageous weapon. The Bears lost to the Lions, 31-30, in large part because Fields threw a pick-six that erased what had been a two-touchdown Chicago lead. At this stage of his career, though, it’s more appropriate to focus on what Fields can do. And he already can do things few, if any, other quarterbacks can.

Fields ran for 147 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown on which he burst through a hole and ran past the entire Detroit secondary. Lamar Jackson may still be the best running quarterback in the NFL, but he’s no longer unchallenged. Fields is one of the best ballcarriers in the league, full stop — regardless of position. His speed manipulates the defense on every snap. It may not lead the Bears to wins now, but in the future it will.

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The Rams’ nightmare Super Bowl defense got worse. Even as they sunk into a post-parade malaise, they could rely on wide receiver Cooper Kupp. He has been essentially their entire offense. But as they fell to 3-6 while Matthew Stafford was sidelined with a concussion, the Rams may have lost their lone bright spot.

In the fourth quarter, Kupp leaped to catch a pass. As he landed, a defensive back rolled into Kupp’s lower right leg. Kupp grabbed his ankle, rolled over in pain and limped to the bench with assistance. He never returned, and the Rams announced he had an ankle injury. “It didn’t look good,” Coach Sean McVay said. “It didn’t sound good.”

If the Rams’ record hasn’t knocked them out of playoff contention, an injury to Kupp would do it.

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