Vikings force five turnovers, frustrate Ryan Fitzpatrick in flogging
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Only three NFL teams had fewer takeaways than the Minnesota Vikings' 13 entering Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills handed them over in bunches.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield had an interception and the Vikings recovered four fumbles, then turned those five turnovers into 21 points in a 38-14 runaway at the Metrodome.
"That's the thing we preached all week, is getting turnovers," said defensive lineman Brian Robison, who had a hand in three of them.
The barrage actually started on special teams late in the first quarter, when safety Tyrell Johnson rammed Bills tight end Jonathan Stupar into kick returner Leodis McKelvin. The ball popped free, Frank Walker dived on top of it and the Vikings took the lead for good on Adrian Peterson's 2-yard touchdown run five plays later.
"We always know (turnovers) come in spurts, but we have to be more consistent about it," linebacker Ben Leber said. "Special teams stepped up with a big turnover and we stepped up on defense as well, so hopefully, we can keep the trend going."
The first takeaway on defense came midway through the second quarter, when Robison -- making his first start in place of left end Ray Edwards (ankle) -- torched right tackle Mansfield Wrotto outside and hit Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, causing a ball intended for receiver Stevie Johnson to flutter into Winfield's hands.
Winfield nearly scored before left tackle Demetrius Bell steered him out of bounds at the 5-yard line, and Tarvaris Jackson's 6-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice two plays later extended the Vikings' lead to 28-7.
"For me to get back there and have a good hit on the quarterback and have it result in a turnover -- that speaks volumes about our defense," Robison said, "not only for me getting the pressure, but Antoine catching the ball and running and making a big gain out of it."
In the third quarter, Robison recovered after Leber poked free the ball from fullback Corey McIntyre in the flat.
Then, in the fourth, back-to-back Buffalo drives ended with Fitzpatrick fumbles -- once on a Jared Allen sack with Robison recovering again, and once on a botched center-quarterback exchange as the Bills faced third-and-goal from inside the Vikings' 1-yard line.
"Sometimes, you just fall into some plays," Leber said. "I think our guys up front made him a little bit nervous, because they had been getting after him and they got off the snap pretty good there and disrupted the play."
Peterson busted loose on a 43-yard touchdown run after the first Fitzpatrick fumble, extending the lead to 38-7, and Leber fell on the latter to squelch the best drive the Bills put together before the Vikings yanked their starters late.
The Vikings recovered another fumble in the early going, too, after Allen beat Bell with an inside move. But Buffalo challenged the call and the play was ruled an incomplete pass upon review.
The Bills finished with 239 net yards -- all but 127 of them in the fourth quarter -- and 10 first downs. Robison was credited with the only sack, but the Vikings hit Fitzpatrick at least four other times and seemed to be in the backfield all day against a depleted Buffalo offensive line.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Fitzpatrick, who finished 15-of-25 passing for 158 yards and a late touchdown against the Vikings' reserves.
"We turned the ball over too much. We didn't play well enough. I didn't play well enough. We didn't get anything going all day."