What a game. And what a shame.
We just witnessed four hours of constant suspense. It just...kept...going. And just...wouldn't...end. The Vikings had their chances. The Saints gave them plenty of room to steal the win. But it wasn't meant to be.
Another heartbreak. We've been through our share as fans of this team, but this one stings. Really, really stings. Reminds me of that feeling just over a decade ago when a perfect field goal kicker missed a field goal.
Tough to know where to start. Adrian Peterson's fumbles, including a game-changing one deep in Saints territory. Brett Favre getting absolutely pummeled throughout the night, and capping off the game, the season, and perhaps his career with an interception. Poor kickoff coverage on special teams. The endless fumbles and turnovers that killed momentum. A complete lack of pressure on Drew Brees. A Saints team that threatened to take control but gave the Vikings an outstanding opportunity to win the game late in the fourth quarter. An inexplicable, inexcusable 12 men in the huddle penalty when the Vikings had just barely pushed into field goal range -- which was a shocking turn of events that quite arguably cost this team a Super Bowl bid. A mundane penalty that may have ruined it all.
It's a lot to process. With two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, I thought this was their year. I thought it was finally their year. I thought they were going to Miami. But after the 12-men penalty pushed the Vikings back to their 38 yardline, Favre tossed a pick. The Saints take over possession and, in the process, take the game to overtime. They win the toss (someone forgot to tell the Vikings that "tails never fails"), and after several key plays -- including a questionable pass interference penalty on Brian Robison and a bobbled reception that was reviewed and ruled a catch -- a field goal gives the Saints a win.
And then it was over. An exhausting, exhilarating year had ended in an instant.
Congratulations to the city of New Orleans -- a city that's always been dear to me since I visited it shortly after Hurricane Katrina. It could certainly be argued that the Vikings were the better of these two teams. But make no mistake about it -- that doesn't mean they were the most deserving team. Not by a long shot. Of these two teams, the Saints were clearly the most deserving of a trip to Miami. With a complete inability to take care of the football at key moments, particularly in the fourth quarter, the Vikings weren't the deserving club.
Despite the fourth quarter interception, it was an absolute pleasure to watch Brett Favre this season. Despite the fumbles, it's always enjoyable to watch Adrian Peterson do his thing. Despite allowing the Saints to push into field goal range in overtime, this defense deserves credit for keeping the Vikings in the game.
But ultimately, the Vikings are heading to the golf course while the Saints are moving on. It was a thrilling game -- one of the most thrilling ones I've ever seen. It was also one of the most devastating. No, the Vikings didn't do enough to say they deserved to win. But take away a few of their mistakes, and they're Miami-bound.
None of that matters, though. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. That stuff is irrelevant. What we're left with is unquestionably one of the most crushing Vikings losses of all time. And we've been through plenty of those.