Thanks for joining us! The Vikings remain alive in the playoffs thanks to their incredible defense and a huge moment from Kirk Cousins. Stay tuned right here for more analysis from this great matchup.
Four quarters weren't enough for the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints in this NFC wild-card matchup, as it took overtime to decide this one. Kirk Cousins got the ball first in the extra period, and didn't look back. He took his offense 75 yards down the field on nine plays, and hit tight end Kyle Rudolph in the end zone on third and goal to win the game, 26-20. There appeared to be a small push-off on Rudolph's part, but it wasn't enough to draw a flag.
Once again, the Saints' season ends because of a questionable pass interference situation. Despite your opinion on the play, it's going to be discussed all offseason down in the bayou.
Cousins completed 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown. While his stat line doesn't look all that impressive, he was an effective game manager, and actually came through when it mattered most. Dalvin Cook was huge for the Vikings all afternoon, and he rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Adam Thielen also found success against Marshon Lattimore on Sunday, and caught seven passes for 129 yards.
Drew Brees had a forgettable day overall, as he completed 26 of 33 passes for 208 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The ground game never took off for New Orleans, as the Saints' leading rusher was Taysom Hill -- who rushed four times for 50 yards. Minnesota's defense deserves the bulk of the credit for this win, and the Vikings were able to pull off an incredible upset on the road to remain alive in the postseason.
Why the Vikings won
The Saints have one of the best offenses in the league on paper -- and they had been playing well over the past few weeks. They fell flat on Sunday, however. Brees threw for just 208 yards -- the fewest amount of yards he has recorded since Week 13 -- and accounted for two turnovers. The Saints' offense converted just 4 of 11 third downs, and accounted for 324 yards of total offense.
It wasn't just because New Orleans had a bad day; Minnesota's defense was relentless. The defensive linemen changed where they were lining up almost every play, and sent pressure at Brees from every angle. They sacked him a total of three times for a loss of 31 yards, and also forced a fumble which ended up changing the game. Defense clearly still wins championships, and it's a big reason why a Super Bowl favorite was knocked out in the wild-card round.
Why the Saints lost
The Saints' inability to move the ball and score points was shocking. Alvin Kamara was held to just 21 rushing yards, Latavius Murray also had just 21 rushing yards and Michael Thomas was held in check for most of the day -- reeling in seven passes for just 70 yards. It would have been even worse had the Saints not had Hill.
New Orleans' spark plug really kept the Saints in this one. He was the reason New Orleans scored its first touchdown, as he hit Deonte Harris on a 50-yard bomb in the second quarter, which set up a five-yard Kamara score. Hill then caught a touchdown from Brees in the fourth quarter, and also had a huge 28-yard run which got the Saints into the red zone late in the game when they were down just three points. In all, he passed for 50 yards, rushed for 50 yards and caught two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown. The Saints needed their special flex player just to keep them in this matchup, as the regular stars like Brees and Kamara struggled to do anything on Sunday.
The Saints got the ball right at the beginning of the fourth quarter down 10 points, and it really did feel like Brees was about to do something special. The Saints scored a touchdown to cap off an eight-play, 85-yard drive to cut the deficit to three points, and then forced a Vikings punt after Cousins picked up just one first down on the ensuing drive. The Saints then began to drive again, and Hill reeled off a huge 28-yard run which got New Orleans into the red zone. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome had to be feeling pretty good about how the game was shaping up, but misfortune struck the very next play.
Brees was sacked by Danielle Hunter, and fumbled the ball. The Vikings reclaimed possession with just over four minutes remaining in the game, and took the clock down to two minutes before the Saints could regain possession. Brees' first fumble of the season came at a very costly time, and it was a big reason the Saints never retook the lead in the second half.
Play of the game
The play of the game easily had to be the 43-yard catch Thielen made in overtime. Cousins dropped it right in Thielen's lap, and the huge play got them all the way down to the Saints' 2-yard line. While Rudolph did make a great leaping grab on third-and-goal to win the game just plays later, the Vikings wouldn't have been in that situation without this big-time catch.
What's next for the Vikings
The Vikings travel to San Francisco to take on the first-place 49ers next Saturday. Both of these teams have great defenses, so we should expect another close, excellent matchup.
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