Bills beat Vikings 17-16 on Watkins’ 2-yard catch
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Quarterback Kyle Orton keeps delivering in the clutch since taking over the starting job in Buffalo. And receiver Sammy Watkins is certainly showing signs of playing up to his dynamic first-round draft-pick promise for the Bills.
The 10-year NFL journeyman and 21-year-old rookie combined for a 2-yard touchdown with 1 second left in a 17-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“Any time you get a chance to go on a game-winning drive, it’s awesome,” Orton said. “We hung in there, made some mistakes, but in the end we got the win, and that was our goal.”
Facing second-and-goal, Orton accepted the shotgun snap and immediately turned to his left, where he zipped a pass to Watkins who was a few yards deep in the end zone and had a step on cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
The touchdown capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive in a game the Bills offense turned the ball over four times and lost starting running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to injuries.
Orton shook off an interception and a lost fumble to finish 31 of 43 for 283 yards and two touchdowns, both to Watkins who finished with nine catches for 122 yards.
“To make the last play to win the game in Buffalo, it’s the best feeling ever,” said Watkins.
The player selected with the No. 4 pick out of Clemson then smiled and referred to his teammates when asked about his rookie status, “I never really feel like a rookie except when those guys make me feel like one.”
Orton, who signed with Buffalo a week before the start of the season, improved to 2-1 since replacing second-year starter EJ Manuel.
He won his first start three weeks ago with a drive that set up Dan Carpenter’s 58-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in a 17-14 win at Detroit.
The Bills (4-3) snapped a two-game home losing streak, and bounced back from a 37-22 loss to New England.
The Vikings (2-5) lacked finish on both defense and behind the Teddy Bridgewater-led offense that managed one touchdown — Cordarrelle Patterson’s 4-yard catch — and three field goals on five trips inside the Bills 40.
“There are no words that can describe this loss,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “It’s the last play of the game. I’ve got nothing to say about that except it hurts.”
The Vikings had their opportunities, only to give Orton new life on the final drive that began with 3:07 left.
Orton extended the drive by converting a fourth-and-20 with a 24-yard pass to tight end Scott Chandler over the middle. Three plays later, Orton hit Watkins on a crossing pattern for an 18-yard gain on third-and-12.
And Orton set up the decisive score by threading a 28-yard pass to Chris Hogan at the 2 along the left sideline.
“That hurt. Everything hurt. The touchdowns, fourth-and-20, everything hurt,” said defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. “We want the victory. It feels better when you get a victory. The sacks don’t mean nothing when you lose.”
Bridgewater went 15 of 26 for 157 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in his third career start, and first on the road. Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon had 103 yards rushing.
Ahead 13-10, the Vikings squandered a chance to build a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter when Bridgewater faced a first-and-goal at Buffalo’s 7.
They instead went backward after Bridgewater was sacked on consecutive plays. Minnesota settled for a 33-yard field goal.
The Bills finished with five sacks and Leodis McKelvin had two interceptions.
Not all the news was good for Buffalo.
Coach Doug Marrone said Spiller is out indefinitely after hurting his left shoulder while falling hard to the turf following a 53-yard run in the second quarter. Spiller was in tears while being carted off the length of the field.
Jackson’s status is uncertain, too. He had his head in his hands while being carted from the sideline with a groin injury late in the first quarter. Marrone said the team is awaiting tests to determine the severity of Jackson’s injury.
The injuries depleted Buffalo’s backfield to third-string running back Anthony Dixon and fullback Frank Summers.
Dixon finished with 51 yards rushing.
NOTES: Vikings starting center John Sullivan (concussion) and starting right guard Vladimir Ducasse (right knee) did not return after being hurt. Coach Mike Zimmer did not have an update on their status. ... The four turnovers by the Bills were their most since committing five (four interceptions and a fumble) in a 27-6 loss at Tampa Bay last Dec. 8. ... At halftime, the Bills honored retired radio play-by-play broadcaster Van Miller, by placing his name on the Ralph Wilson Stadium’s Wall of Fame.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL