Throughout their history, the Minnesota Vikings have suffered any number of heart-wrenching losses in any number of ways.
On Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, they got a miracle when they needed one the most.
Thanks to a 61-yard touchdown pass with no time remaining from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs, the Minnesota Vikings have advanced to the NFC Championship Game with a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
The Vikings got on the board first in this one, getting into the end zone on their first possession. Starting near midfield after a nice punt return from Marcus Sherels, the Vikings marched down the field and scored on a 14-yard touchdown run from Jerick McKinnon. Kai Forbath added the extra point, and it was 7-0 early on.
Forbath then added to the lead on Minnesota’s next possession, connecting on a 20-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with just under five minutes left in the first quarter. Following an interception by Andrew Sendejo, the Vikings added another touchdown, as Latavius Murray went over from a yard out to make it 17-0 with about ten minutes left in the first half.
That was all the scoring before the break, as the teams exchanged missed field goals at the end of the second quarter. Will Lutz was wide left on a 58-yard attempt for the Saints, and Forbath was wide left on a 49-yard attempt, so the Vikings took a 17-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
New Orleans finally got on the board late in the third quarter. Drew Brees connected with Michael Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown, with the extra point from Lutz making it 17-7 with a minute left in the quarter.
Following an interception on a bad throw by Keenum, the Saints cashed in on a Brees-to-Thomas pass again, this one a two-yarder. That cut the deficit to 17-14, but the Vikings still held the lead. Forbath then connected on a 49-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter to increase the lead back to six at 20-14.
That proved to not be enough, as the Saints took the lead with three minutes remaining in regulation. Brees found Kamara for a 14-yard touchdown pass over Eric Kendricks’ coverage to make it 21-20. But, there was still enough time for Keenum and company to pull off a comeback.
After the two-minute warning, Keenum found Adam Thielen for a big 24-yard gain that put the Vikings into New Orleans territory at the 40-yard line. The Vikings picked up a few more yards, and set Kai Forbath up to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Forbath put it between the uprights, and the Vikings took the lead back, 23-21, with 1:29 left on the clock.
That was too much time for Brees, as he led the Saints down the field and got them into position for Lutz, who knocked it home from 43 yards out with under a minute remaining to make it 24-23.
But, that was too much time for Keenum. It didn’t look that way at first, as a couple of incompletions left the Vikings with a 3rd-and-10 from their own 39-yard line. Keenum dropped back to pass and lofted one towards Stefon Diggs on the right sideline. Diggs went up, avoiding a hit from a couple of New Orleans’ defenders. Diggs then started heading for the end zone. . .and there was nobody out there to stop him. He cruised the rest of the way for a 61-yard score, and the Vikings went on to a 29-24 victory.
We’re going to be talking about that play for a while, folks.
The long pass finished up what had been an up-and-down game for Keenum, who finished with 318 yards on 25-of-40 passing. He had one touchdown pass. . .right at the end. . .and one interception. Diggs wound up being the Vikings’ leading receiver, with 137 yards and a score on six catches. Adam Thielen had 74 yards on six receptions, and Jarius Wright came up big with 56 yards on three catches. Kyle Rudolph had 28 yards on five catches, and Latavius Murray had a pair of receptions for 17 yards. Jerick McKinnon also had three catches for six yards.
On the ground, Murray had 50 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, and Jerick McKinnon had 34 yards and a score on eight carries. C.J. Ham had one seven-yard carry, and Case Keenum had a four-yard run.
The victory sends the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2009, where they will take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. That game will kick off at approximately 5:40 PM Central time next Sunday afternoon.
The Minnesota Vikings win a thriller over the New Orleans Saints by a final score of 29-24. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of this week’s game right here at The Daily Norseman, and we’ll see you back here all week for the NFC Championship!