- January 15, 2018 at 4:00 am #19172Joe JohnsonKeymasterNewbieRank: Newbie
I don’t believe what I just saw. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to the Vikings.
Anthony Barr was in agreement. “I have no words,” he said after the game in which the Vikings dramatically beat the New Orleans Saints 29-24 as time ran out.
The Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints on a last second play that downtown Minneapolis is still reverberating over. Case Keenum threw a desperation pass to Stefon Diggs with just 10 seconds remaining and when the Saints defender missed Diggs, he corralled for a 61-yard touchdown to beat the Saints and live to play another week.
Even head coach Mike Zimmer, who last week said there was “no damn curse,” said this week that it was a “Hail Mary.”
The hopes for a home field Super Bowl were on, off, on and then nearly dashed until the late game heroics. The Vikings had the game in hand early, but problems in the second half looked as though the Vikings were done. But in a matter of fate of that feels like a good bit of payback, finished in the most improbable manner.
The Vikings now move on to Philadelphia where they will face the Eagles for the NFC Championship. The dream season continues, and after what we just saw, who knows what will happen.
Case Keenum was jacked up before the game, despite the fact that Sam Bradford (and not Teddy Bridgewater) was the backup quarterback suited up in the sidelines. It was Keenum’s offense to lead and played well for much of the game, but his one mistake hurt the Vikings most than anything in the game—an ill-advised throw under pressure that turned in to an interception. The pick led to the Saints second touchdown in the game and pulled them to within three points. After the Vikings had a punt blocked late in the fourth quarter, Keenum grabbed the ball again and them back down the field a Kai Forbath 53-yard field goal and a two-point lead. But there was too much time left on the clock Drew Brees and the Saints.
“He made some great throws,” said Zimmer about his quarterback. “The throw to Jarius Wright was an unbelievable throw. I was disappointed in the interception and the sack to knock us out of field goal range. But that was a big time throw [to Diggs].”
Keenum, who we saw this week in a well-publicized story, is not one to give up—and he didn’t. In the final huddle, Keenum called the final play (called “Seventh Heaven,” accord to Diggs). And then he told the huddle: “I’m going to give someone a chance.”
“And I guess it was me,” Diggs said.
He last move was kneeling down for the extra point and throwing the ball into the (near) rafters of U.S. Bank Stadium. Then he and Diggs posed in the locker room with the game that they used for the final play. Each with huge smiles on their faces.
The Vikings offensive line once again did the musical chairs game for this contest, as Mike Remmers moved from right guard last game to left guard for this one, and Rashod Hill took over at right tackle. And the plan worked, for a while. The O-line was stout against a Saints d-line that included many people’s favorite for defensive player of the year, Cam Jordan, and held their own. But a couple sacks and a lot of pressure on Keenum in the second half hurt them. The offense was only able to get field goals in the second half. Except that last play where they gave Keenum enough time to wing that prayer down field.
The Vikings defense was lights out in the first half. But in the second half, the bottom fell out. After a decent drive by New Orleans to get on the board, they were given a short field and Michael Thomas got in the endzone for a second time (after he drilled Andrew Sendejo and gave him a potential concussion). There were big plays but such as Anthony Barr’s interception—it was aided by an incredible play from Everson Griffen, who, with his back to Brees, tipped the ball with the back of his hand to Barr. But Brees gave them trouble in the second half and scored another TD late to take the lead. But the work in the first half helped secure this win in the end.
“If we had dome some things better, I don’t think the score would have been this close and we wouldn’t have had to throw that pass, but everything works out in the end,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings out an emphasis on the running game early and both Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon each made the most of it. They weren’t all big yards but they were important ones, as both of the running backs had a first-half rushing touchdown and helped the Vikings build an early lead. On the game, Murray had 19 carries for 50 yards but he grabbed two passes for 17 yards. McKinnon had 34 yards on eight carries and three catches for just six yards. The dynamic duo did their job again.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has had a great season with the Vikings offense and he kept it going against the Saints in the playoffs. On the first series the Vikings had three plays that the Saint were totally confused and out of position on, and it lead to a quick touchdown. It was passing plays to Murray and running plays to McKinnon, which kept the Saints on their heels. That happened again and again, as the game wore on. We hate to think that the Vikings might lose Shurmur to another team in the offseason.
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks is a beast. Time and again he leads the team in tackles and he did it once again on Sunday afternoon. Kendricks had 10 tackles with seven of them solo on the game, plus a split lip when his helmet got kicked off by Alvin Kamara. Despite the blood, he was not happy about taking time away from the game for stitches or whatever else the medical staff had planned—and he let them know it. Kendricks is invaluable to a defense that continues to dominate—even some of the best offensive squads in the league.
Should be Ending
The crowd noise at U.S. Bank Stadium was unprecedented. If there were any Saints at the game, they were few and far between and never really had a chance to get a Who Dat? cheer heard. The decibel level reached 118.0 at one point, and Zimmer praised the crowd as the loudest he has even played in front of.
“The crowd was unbelievable today–just like these guys here,” Zimmer said of the fans outside the press conference room chanting his name. “It was the loudest environment I have ever been in. The atmosphere was the best I have ever seen. That’s the best crowd I have ever witnessed.”
At that point he asked one of the fans to get him beer. Were they to have media access, they would have.
Injuries. The injury to Shamar Stephen is troubling. The Vikings can’t afford to lose any depth on the defensive line, which is one of the team’s strengths. Stephen has been hampered by injury a lot yet has been playing well this season (he is scheduled for an MRI on Monday). Andrew Sendejo took quite a blind side shot in the third quarter that laid him out on the field for a spell. It looked like a concussion. Zimmer said after the game he was doing better and has a chance to play next week. Hopefully both players can return, but it looks difficult right now.
There was a special teams break down in the punting game–Ryan Quigley had a punt blocked for the first time all season (it sounds like saying Gary Anderson missed a field goal for the first time all season and it felt like it). All the team are at this point of the season and stuff happens, but the Vikings survived it.
Hopefully the magic is running out for the Eagles, who will host the Vikings next Sunday in the NFC title game. We’d all like their season to come to an end next week.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.