With Buffalo the latest victim, Vikings on a record pace when it comes to winning close games

After the Vikings pulled out a win Sunday at Buffalo against seemingly insurmountable odds, were they surprised?

Well, not exactly.

After all, the Vikings have been winning close games with regularity all season, and now they’re on a record pace. When they fought back from a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter to defeat Bills 33-30 in overtime at Highmark Stadium, it gave them seven straight wins, all of which were one-score games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that tied the NFL mark set by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.

“That stat, it is crazy how these games are that close, but it’s definitely not a fluke at this point,’’ Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks said Monday. “We’ve shown what we’re capable of. We just fight. … No matter what the score is, my teammates are going to fight.”

During the seven-game streak, which has raised the Vikings’ record to 8-1, they have trailed in the second half in six of the games and in the fourth quarter in five. But they keep pulling out wins, and they’re off to their best start since the 2009 team also began 8-1.

Sunday’s victory was the most improbable. The Vikings stormed back after being down 27-10 following a 45-yard field goal by Buffalo’s Tyler Bass with 1:56 left in the third quarter.

“Just stay laser focused no matter the situation,” tackle Brian O’Neill said about what Vikings players were saying then. “No matter if we’re down by three, up by 10, down by 17, we’re going to stay laser focused at the job at hand.’’

On the first play from scrimmage after Bass’ field goal, Dalvin Cook ripped off an 81-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 27-17. The Vikings then closed within 27-23 on C.J. Ham’s 3-yard TD run with 4:34 left in regulation.

After Kirk Cousins came up short with 49 seconds remaining regulation on a sneak on fourth-and-goal at the Bills 1, the Vikings looked doomed. But Bills quarterback Josh Allen fumbled the snap on the next play and Kendricks pounced on it for a touchdown to give Minnesota a 30-27 lead.

“Everybody was screaming and jumping around and I was like, ‘There’s no way that actually happened,’ ’’ O’Neill said. “So I wasn’t really ready to jump around and believe it yet, and then they reviewed it. … Everybody was freaking out and I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ And so it was pretty cool when it shook out the way it did.”

The Vikings ended up winning in overtime thanks to Greg Joseph’s 33-yard field goal with 3:42 left and Patrick Peterson’s clinching interception in the end zone with 1:12 remaining.

Overall, O’Neill said he is not surprised the Vikings keep winning the close ones heading into Sunday’s game against Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium. He pointed to their preparation entering games and the demeanor players have.

“We’re going to stick together,’’ O’Neill said. “We’re not going to flinch, we’re not going to blink and we’re going to have a chance when it comes down to it. … We love going to hunt down these victories.”

The streak started when the Vikings came from 10 points behind in the fourth quarter to beat Detroit 28-24 in Week 3. They rallied from three points back in the fourth quarter to top New Orleans 28-25 in Week 4, and then from one point behind in the fourth to beat Chicago 29-22 in Week 5.

The Vikings had a rare game in which they didn’t trail in the second half in a 24-16 win at Miami in Week 6. They then trailed by three points in the third quarter before beating Arizona 34-26 in Week 8 and by 10 in the fourth before topping Washington 20-17 in Week 9. And then came Sunday’s win.

“You can look at some of those games early on in the season and as we’ve grown as a football team, where we have been able to get it done,” Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell said of experience gained by coming back from deficits.

The Vikings could set an NFL record Sunday for most consecutive wins with all of them being one-score games. Then again, some players have said they wouldn’t mind a routine victory one of these days.

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