By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
It looked good early for the Saints as the defense forced a quick turnover. On the second play of the game, Kirk Cousins completed a short pass to Adam Thielen. Thielen was hit hard by Janoris Jenkins, slapping the ball loose. Von Bell scooped up the ball and returned it to the Viking's 37 yard line. Brees drove the offense into the red zone, but the Minnesota defense tightened up to keep the Saints out of the end zone, forcing Wil Lutz to kick a 29 yard field goal. 3-0, New Orleans with 9:56 to go in the first quarter. Minnesota would respond going 50 yards in 11 plays, with Dan Bailey kicking a 43 yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3, ending the scoring in the first quarter.
Both teams traded punts to start the second quarter. However the Saints would make a huge play to set up their next score. Taysom Hill lined up at the quarterback on 1st & 10 at the New Orleans 46. Taking the snap, Hill found Deonte Harris on a 50 yard completion down to the Minnesota four. On the next play, Alvin Kamara would punch it into the end zone for a 10-3 lead. Kirk Cousins would then drive the Vikings 72 yards on 13 plays down to the Saints three yard line where the drive stalled. Dan Bailey kicked a 21 yard field goal to trim the lead to 10-6 with 2:51 to go in the period. Three plays later, Drew Brees was intercepted by Anthony Harris setting up Minnesota first & ten at the Saints 45 yard line. The Vikings would score to take a 13-10 lead as Dalvin Cook scored on a four yard touchdown plunge. Deonte Harris would respond with a nice 54 yard kick return, taking the ball up to the Vikings' 45. Drew Brees would then hit Michael Thomas for 20 yards down to the 25, setting up a Wil Lutz field goal attempt with five ticks left on the clock. Lutz would miss the kick, sending the teams to halftime with Minnesota up 13-10.
Both teams seem to have made necessary defensive adjustments in the locker rooms as both struggled to move the football. Each team had three opportunities offensively and all ended with a punt except for one. With 7:08 to go in the quarter, Minnesota would drive 64 yards in 8 plays, as Delvin Cook finished the drive off with a one yard touchdown run. The 3rd quarter would end with the score, Minnesota 20 - New Orleans 10, setting up a very exciting final period.
The Saints who struggled offensively throughout most of the game, began the fourth quarter with a confident 85 yard scoring drive as Drew Brees hit Taysom Hill on a 20 yard touchdown pass, pulling the Saints to within three points, 20-17, with 10:37 to go in the game. The Vikings would blow a nice scoring opportunity on the next possession. Mounting a drive, Minnesota had it third and eight close to mid-field. Cousins threw a deep pass down the middle that hit rookie WR Alexander Hollins in the hands, who wasn't able to hold onto the ball, forcing a punting situation. Drew Brees and the Saints began to move the football once again, driving the ball 37 yards down to the Vikings' 20 yard line. With 4:18 to go in the game, Drew Brees dropped back to throw and was sacked by Danielle Hunter. Brees fumbled on the play and Minnesota's DT Jalyn Holmes made the recovery at the Vikings' 36 yard line. However, the Saints defense would stand tall, shutting down the Vikings' ground game and giving Drew Brees another chance at victory. Starting their final opportunity at their own 30 yard line, the Saints drove into Minnesota territory. On 2nd & 15, with only seven seconds left, from the Vikings' 31 yard line, Wil Lutz set up for a 49 yard field goal attempt. The kick was good, sending the game into overtime, with the score tied at 20-20.
Minnesota won the coin toss and chose to receive to start the overtime period. Drew Brees and the Saints offense wouldn't get another opportunity, as Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense, took the ball and turned out the lights in the Mercedes Benz Super Dome. Minnesota went 75 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a deep 43 yard completion from Cousins to Adam Thielen down to the New Orleans two yard line. Two plays later, Cousins would hit Kyle Rudolph in the back corner of the end zone for the winning score.
The 26-20 overtime loss, is a very disappointing way to end a fabulous (13-3) season by the Saints. Drew Brees finished, 26/33, 208 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 1 INT, a fumble, and was sacked three times. The Vikings defense did a great job of shutting down the Saints ground game today, as they could only manage, 97 rushing yards, lead by Taysom Hill with 50 yards on four carries. Michael Thomas finished with seven catches for 70 yards.