ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The questions coming into the Buffalo Bills' game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday centered around whether quarterback Josh Allen would be available to play as he dealt with a right elbow injury. Four quarters and nine minutes of overtime later, the questions shifted to how Allen's late mistakes contributed to yet another Bills collapse.
For the first time in his career, Allen committed three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) in the fourth quarter/overtime period, as the Vikings took advantage to come out on top 33-30 in a wild back-and-forth thriller. Allen has now thrown two or more interceptions in three straight games, and he threw two end zone interceptions in a game for the first time in his career.
Despite holding a 17-point third-quarter lead, Buffalo allowed Minnesota to climb back in. Two of Allen's turnovers led to touchdowns, and the third ended the game. Minnesota scored 13 points off four Buffalo turnovers, a season high in points off turnovers allowed by the Bills.
"We had opportunities to win the game, and we got to do a better job taking care of the football," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "I know I keep saying that. We talk about it every week, and it makes it awfully hard to win a football game when you turn the ball over four times."
Allen and McDermott both said that he was not impacted by the elbow injury during the game. The quarterback was questionable entering Sunday after participating in one day of practice (Friday) in a limited capacity. McDermott did not get into the specifics of when the decision was made to start Allen instead of backup quarterback Case Keenum.
"I just progressed throughout the week pretty steadily," Allen said. "Put a lot of hours into getting ready to play. Appreciate the guys in the training room for helping me get back out there. I don't know if I can give you a definite day, but I always felt like I could play."
Allen on Sunday completed 29 of 43 passes for 330 yards and one touchdown with the two interceptions, including a season-high 10 passes of 10-plus air yards. He led the team in rushing yet again with six carries for 84 yards, despite McDermott saying during the week that the Bills need more balance. Rushers outside of Allen in the second half finished with 21 yards on seven carries.
Allen's first interception came on a fourth-down play from the Minnesota 7-yard line. The pass was intended for tight end Dawson Knox, but Allen said there was "no sense" in throwing the ball away or taking a sack, so he tried to connect with Knox. Instead, Patrick Peterson recorded the first of his two interceptions on the day.
While the Vikings capitalized on that play with a touchdown, Buffalo's defense stopped Minnesota at the Bills' own 1-yard line on the ensuing drive, which appeared to end the game. According to ESPN Analytics, the Bills had greater than a 99.9% chance to win at that point. Instead, as soon as the Bills got the ball back, Allen and center Mitch Morse did not connect on a direct snap that was in Allen's hands just briefly. Minnesota recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
"It's on me," Allen said. "Can't have that."
But Morse came to the quarterback's defense.
"In any situation where there's a snap like that, I put that on myself," Morse said. "And it's just unacceptable on my end ... it's just one of those things where you have to gut through the film and see what happened. ... It was a game-altering play, which is tough.
"It's one of those plays that you look back when you're 40 and you wish you had back."
The Bills' offense was able to go 55 yards in five plays to force overtime with a 29-yard Tyler Bass field goal, but in reality, a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Gabe Davis should have been called incomplete, as NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson told a pool reporter.
Allen's final interception came in overtime with 1:12 remaining and the Bills in position to tie or win the game. Allen attempted to connect with Davis despite multiple Vikings defenders in the area. The quarterback described it as a bad decision.
"Kind of a double post-ish concept there," Allen said. "Harrison Smith took the over route, and I felt he was in a position where he could stop if I throw it over the top, so I just tried to drive it. That's a savvy vet ... can't make the throw."
The pick resulted in the Bills losing back-to-back games despite holding double-digit leads for the first time since Weeks 5 and 7 in 2010.
"We got to continue to play sharp," Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. "I mean, I feel like we're coming out in the first half, mind sharp, getting after it, and then we somewhat hit a little lull and then kind of got to get back in the groove.
"Von Miller always says, 'Don't blink,' and I feel like we might be blinking a little bit, especially when we come out trying to figure it out."
Since Week 8, the Bills are averaging the fewest offensive points scored in the second half and overtime in the league (4 points per game) and the second-worst points margin per game (-10.3). Allen has thrown zero passing touchdowns and five interceptions in the second half during that stretch.
While the mistakes loom large, the offense's and Allen's second-half woes overall have become a trend.
"We were horrendous in the red zone, and that's again on my shoulders," Allen said. "So, we got to clean it up for sure."