Updated: Jan 7, 2020
Minnesota may have entered the playoffs as the sixth best team in the NFC, but the Vikings left Sunday's game looking like the team to beat.
The Vikings marched down to New Orleans to take on the Saints this weekend. New Orleans had a 13-3 record in the regular season, with a 6-2 record in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. If Minnesota was to have any chance of winning, the team would need a huge performance from one of their stars.
And, luckily for them, they got one.
The game started off slowly; the two teams traded field goals, and the first quarter ended tied at 3.
New Orleans opened up the scoring in the second quarter when halfback Alvin Kamara ran 4 yards for a touchdown. Another field goal by Minnesota kicker Dan Bailey brought the game to 10-6.
On the next series, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception. In 11 games this season, the 40-year-old threw just four picks. The Vikings quickly moved the ball downfield and HB Dalvin Cook ran the ball in for a 5-yard rushing touchdown.
The Saints had a chance to score right at the end of the half. A huge kickoff return and a 20-yard catch by wide receiver Michael Thomas set K WIll Lutz up for a 43-yard field goal. Lutz, who made 32 of 36 attempted field goals during the regular season, missed the field goal and the Vikings took a 13-10 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Cook stayed heavily involved in the run game and added another touchdown to put the Vikings up 20-10. Cook finished the day with 28 rushes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings needed a big day from Cook, and he delivered.
The Saints came roaring back in the fourth quarter. Brees completed a pass to QB Taysom Hill for a score, and the Vikings lead was cut to three. Lutz redeemed himself by converting a 49-yard field goal try into 3 points, and regulation ended with the score tied at 20.
The Vikings started on offense in the fourth quarter, and they didn't give New Orleans a chance for a rebuttal. The Vikings marched down the field in a 4 minute and 20 second long drive which ended with QB Kirk Cousins tossing a 4-yard passing touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph. It was Cousins only touchdown of the game, but it came at the right time in a big spot.
With the 26-20 win, the Vikings move on to the Division Round where they will take on the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers. The Niners were one of the three teams which defeated the Saints this season. That game kicks off Saturday at 1:35.
The Saints season came to an abrupt end on Sunday, and it couldn't have come in a more heartbreaking fashion. An overtime loss at home is tough to swallow, especially since the Saints narrowly missed putting three important points on the board at the end of the second quarter.
Still, the Saints have a lot of positives to take away from the season. Michael Thomas broke the record for most catches in a season, Taysom Hill has been an absolute revelation for the Saints in every role he has taken on and Drew Brees played remarkably well for a man in his 40s. There's a lot to look forward to if you're a New Orleans Saints fan.
No Shenanigans, Just Football