ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Reserve offensive lineman Blake Brandel had only appeared for one snap for the Vikings offense this season — 66 in his three-year NFL career — when he was suddenly inserted into one of the wildest finishes in franchise history during Sunday's 33-30 overtime victory at Buffalo.
Brandel replaced left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who suffered a concussion and did not return to the game. Brandel, the 2020 sixth-round pick, drew rave reviews from right tackle Brian O'Neill in what the veteran called a "tough spot." Cornerback Akayleb Evans also left at the start of the second half because of a concussion.
"That was an insane game in the first place," Brandel said, "so to be able to get in there just makes it that much crazier."
O'Neill and center Garrett Bradbury agreed in the locker room postgame that Sunday's win was one of the "hardest fought" of their careers. O'Neill said he was proud of how the offensive line played against a Bills front that still got four sacks on Kirk Cousins, who dropped back over 50 times. O'Neill limited the damage from Bills edge rusher Von Miller to one sack.
"It was a great test for me," O'Neill said. "I want one play back out of probably 55. It was toward the end. But, I mean, he's a Hall of Famer, gold jacket, I felt I stepped up and went toe to toe with him most of the day."
Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., the 2022 second-round pick, first replaced Evans in the third quarter. Booth was flagged for a pass interference call defending against Bills receiver Gabe Davis before Buffalo's game-tying field goal. Cornerback Duke Shelley, signed to the active roster on Saturday, played three snaps and had an end-zone deflection in overtime while covering Bills tight end Dawson Knox.
Edge rusher Za'Darius Smith was briefly evaluated for a knee contusion, according to coach Kevin O'Connell, but he returned and finished the game.
The Bills lost receiver Jake Kumerow because of an ankle injury. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds left in the third quarter because of a groin injury that had him listed questionable entering the game. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was questionable to play because of an elbow injury, started and threw for 330 yards, one touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed six times for 84 yards.
'Dreams do come true'
Running back Dalvin Cook called Sunday a "special" win, not only because of his career-long 81-yard touchdown run and 119-yard rushing day, but because he did so against his younger brother, Bills running back James Cook.
The Cooks swapped jerseys after the game and a Saturday night of bonding with family.
"I wrote on his jersey, 'Dreams do come true,'" Cook said. "We couldn't imagine it. We always talked about wanting to go to the NFL when we was kids, we want to play against each other, I'm going to beat you, you're going to beat me. It actually happened."
Cook reached 21.68 miles per hour on his 81-yard touchdown run — the longest by a Vikings player since Adrian Peterson in 2012 — which marked the third-fastest speed by a ball carrier this season, per NFL's Next Gen Stats.
- The Bills' two touchdowns in the opening frame doubled the touchdowns allowed by the Vikings in first quarters entering Sunday. Minnesota hadn't allowed a first-quarter touchdown since Sept. 25 vs. the Lions.
- Darrisaw's first penalty of the season — his second-ever holding call — was costly because the flag negated a 19-yard conversion on third down in the third quarter and forced the Vikings to punt.
- Cornerback Patrick Peterson's two interceptions were the 31st and 32nd of his career, trailing only Harrison Smith (33) and the Patriots' Devin McCourty (33) for most among active defenders. Sunday marked Peterson's first multi-interception game since 2014 and the third of his NFL career.
- Kicker Greg Joseph missed his fourth extra-point attempt of the season in the fourth quarter. Entering Sunday, no other kicker had missed more than two extra points this year.