Posted on January 15, 2018, by Travis Pulver
After the incredible game the Jaguars and Steelers treated fans to earlier in the day, the Vikings and Saints had a lot to live up to. At first, it didn’t appear as if their NFC Divisional Round game was going to be half as entertaining as the Jags/Steelers game was. But then an insane fourth-quarter made sure fans would be talking more about how the Vikings-Saints game played out then that ‘other’ game.
At first, it looked like the Vikings were going to win with ease. The defense shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense. Case Keenum has no trouble moving the Vikings offense. When the first half ended, Minnesota held a 17-0 lead.
Minnesota played better than anyone could have expected. The only slip up the team had was late in the second quarter when Kai Forbath missed a 49-yard field goal. The missed field goal aside, if they could turn in a similar effort in the second half, the Vikings would be in good shape.
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But Drew Brees and the Saints defense had something to say about that.
After Minnesota killed almost half of the third quarter on their opening drive, the Saints forced a punt. Brees proceeded to guide the Saints to their first touchdown of the game. The defense followed it up with an interception off Case Keenum. Six plays later, Brees connected with Michael Thomas on a three-yard touchdown pass.
Just like that—the Vikings lead was cut to three, 17-14.
Minnesota desperately needed to move the ball to give their defense a rest. If they could put up some points, they could take back some of the momentum—and they did. But it was just a field goal, so the Saints could take the lead with a touchdown.
Their special teams set them with a great opportunity to score that touchdown after partially blocking a punt with 5:28 to play. They only had to cover 40-yards. Four plays later they covered the last of that 40-yards when Brees connected with Alvin Kamara on a 14-yard touchdown.
New Orleans led for the first time, 21-20.
But the problem with scoring so easily meant the Vikings had plenty of time to retake the lead. They just had to make sure they didn’t leave too much time on the clock. Keenum got the ball moving, but the drive stalled on the Saints 35-yard line.
That was close enough for Kai Forbath who booted one in from 53-yards out to give Minnesota the lead, 23-21, with 1:29 to play.
Game over, right? Not quite. Drew Brees was able to move the Saints down the field quickly, but the drive stalled at the Minnesota 25-yard line. But a 43-yard field goal from Will Lutz was enough to give the Saints the lead, 24-21.
Surely, now the game would be over—right? Not yet.
A quick pass got the Vikings up to their own 39-yard line with 18 seconds to play. All they needed was a quick 20-yard reception to get within Forbath’s range. On third and ten with about ten seconds left they appeared to get it when Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs downfield.
But no one tackled him, and he raced to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
“I was waiting for someone to come hit me,” Diggs said (ESPN). “Seeing that nobody touched me, I lost [my] footing a little bit. My hand never let me down. Rest is history.”
It was a disappointing way for the New Orleans Saints to see such a great season come to an end. After the game, Drew Brees talked to the media about the way it finished (ESPN):
“I think we’re all a bit shell-shocked…. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever been a part of — and unfortunately on the wrong side of it.”
The Vikings should enjoy the win but will have to come back down to Earth quickly. They will have to make sure no one is overlooking the Eagles when they travel to Philadelphia next week. Should they win then, they will become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl they are hosting.