After Week 14, the Chicago Bears navigated the 2020 playoff waters precisely how the Minnesota Vikings aspired to mere weeks ago. Minnesota needed to win two of its final three games and receive some “help” from the Arizona Cardinals. The invocation was simple. Take care of business against the Bears, [possibly] Saints, and Lions and ask the Cardinals to drop a game.
Some of that happened.
Arizona lost to the undermanned San Francisco 49ers and now face elimination in Week 17 versus the Los Angeles Rams. A door has opened for an NFC North team – the Bears. Minnesota dropped three straight games to Tampa Bay, Chicago, and New Orleans on Christmas. The Vikings will not participate in the expanded 2020 NFL postseason. But the Bears might.
A last-gasp effort was gurgled in New Orleans as the Saints spanked the Vikings, 52-33. Alvin Kamara tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns. Drew Brees was in full pedestrian mode floating blimpy passes to his receivers. Minnesota intercepted two of Brees’ zeppelins while avoiding turnovers on the offensive side. That’s right – the Saints toppled the Vikings by a score of 52-33 with a -2 turnover differential in full effect. Gruesome.
Indeed, the Saints punctuated Minnesota’s 2020 season. It was classified as “payback” because the Vikings famously ended New Orleans’ seasons in two of the last four seasons.
But was it?
A strict interpretation of the term payback probably mandates the Christmas day game as a retaliatory affair. “You ended our season, now we will end yours” is the sensation that oozed from the game’s fallout. Minnesota’s season is effectively over sans a consolation game at Detroit in Week 17. The Saints are in the mix to win the Super Bowl. Advantage New Orleans.
However, ousting the Saints from the playoffs in two recent seasons and the Vikings failing to obtain a seven-seed during the pandemic season — are markedly different animals. Given the choice to trade victories in the 2017 Divisional Playoff game or last year’s 2019 Wildcard upset with a relatively mundane Week 16 regular-season game – Vikings loyalists will take the former.
The Saints put the Vikings out of their misery on Christmas day. A team that was accosted by injury on all defensive roster planks is now spared the eventuality of being thumped in the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans did not necessarily do Minnesota “a favor,” but falling to New Orleans in Week 16 was very low on the Vikings spectrum of pain.
Most Vikings enthusiasts will take two season-ending playoff triumphs over the Saints in place of a Christmas mercy killing.
Last Time Vikings See Brees?
The quarterback position for the Saints will likely be unfamiliar to the Vikings when the teams meet again. Unless the Saints and Vikings reach the postseason next season, the franchises will not play each other in 2021. If they do not meet in the postseason next year, 2021 will mark the first season since 2016 that the two teams do not hook up in some capacity.
It is unclear if 2020 is a formal retirement tour for Drew Brees. Emotional vibes indicate this may be the last hurrah. Yet, Brees has encountered nothing of the Derek Jeter farewell treatment. What’s more, the soon-to-be 42-year-old Brees was beset by an injury that entailed nearly a dozen broken ribs. As one’s age escalates, so do the chances of retirement from a malady of this sort.
Life after Brees will be fascinating. Sean Payton might elect for the gadgety ways of Taysom Hill – a quarterback that is older than Las Vegas Raiders quarterback, Derek Carr. Or Payton could sign up with Jameis Winston and the turnover train. Winston is currently the team’s third-string quarterback (arguably the best QB3 in the league).
In any event, because the Vikings are not scheduled to play the Saints in 2021, the Christmas day decapitation is probably the final time Brees laces them up versus the Vikings.
A More Fair Fight Next Time
No matter the Saints signal-caller, Vikings head coach, or venue of the next meeting, the proceeding matchup between Minnesota and New Orleans will be a fairer contest. The Vikings were without the services of Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, Mike Hughes, C.J. Ham, Alexander Mattison, Kyle Rudolph, Troy Dye, and Todd Davis. Not all of those players will be present when the next Vikings-Saints tryst occurs, but the notable ones like Hunter, Kendricks, Pierce, and Barr are committed to the team beyond 2021. And, they are the impact-makers.
Week 16 at New Orleans was as injured as a Vikings team that can put be displayed on a football field – especially on defense. Why do you think Minnesota surrendered the most points in its history since 1963?