Vikings Shock Saints on Stefon Diggs’s Last-Second Touchdown

“I just threw the idea, man,” Keenum said.

Plenty of fans had already departed before the final play, numbed by the cumulative anguish produced by years of field goals which had gone against the Vikings, after Wil Lutz drilled a go-ahead 43-yarder which sent Saints personnel from the press box exclaiming which they were headed to the N.F.C. championship game next Sunday in Philadelphia.

coming from the misses by Gary Anderson (1999) as well as Blair Walsh (2016) which cost them seemingly certain victories to the overtime conversion by Garrett Hartley (2010) which escorted the Saints into the N.F.C. title game, the Vikings’ postseason history will be defined by field-goal attempts.

Only a few players coming from which game populate the teams’ rosters, however one of them will be Drew Brees, who gives the Saints the advantage, his teammates believe, in every game. After Minnesota’s Kai Forbath kicked a 53-yarder with 1 minute 34 seconds left, Brees marched the Saints 50 yards, extending the drive on 4th-as well as-10 by finding Willie Snead for 13 yards.

The Vikings’ defense considers itself the best unit from the N.F.L. playoffs, as well as the statistics support the idea: They are first in points allowed, second against the run as well as second against the pass. They had held the Saints’ powerful offense scoreless until late from the third quarter, however Brees, assisted by a blocked punt, fired three touchdown passes within a span of 14 minutes, turning a 17-0 deficit into a 21-20 lead with 3:01 remaining from the game.

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Saints safety Marcus Williams missed the tackle on Diggs’s game-winning touchdown.

Credit
Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency

Keenum became the first playoff debutante to beat a quarterback with at least 10 postseason starts since Tim Tebow of the Broncos outlasted Ben Roethlisberger as well as the Steelers from the 2011 wild-card round.

The N.F.C. championship in Philadelphia next weekend will feature two reserves elevated by injury, a matchup of Nick Foles as well as Keenum, teammates on which paragon of mediocrity known as the 2015 St. Louis Rams. In a league where the quality of quarterback so often defines the quality of a team, the conference finalists reinforce the value of having a complete roster.

The mandate for Keenum, as submitted by Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, was to complete lots of passes, especially the deep ones, as well as play smart, efficient football. As he has done for most of the season. As he did for most of Sunday, completing 25 of 40 passes for 318 yards, with one notable exception coming from the fading minutes of the third quarter.

On the first play after Brees connected with Michael Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown late from the third quarter, Keenum floated a pass toward Diggs, double-covered along the far sideline. Leaping, safety Marcus Williams caught the idea as well as returned the idea to the Vikings’ 30-yard line, setting up another touchdown to Thomas which trimmed the deficit to 17-14. Forbath answered for Minnesota using a 49-yard field goal.

the idea was a victory for Minnesota Coach Mike Zimmer, who outwitted a close friend as well as another master tactician, Sean Payton. The coaches call plays for units which reflect their personalities — the Saints, freewheeling as well as aggressive, delight in running any type of play coming from any spot on the field, while the Vikings, brusque as well as direct, confound with effective coverage as well as a destructive pass-rush.

Across its last three games, Minnesota had allowed a total of 17 points. Those lockdowns came against Cincinnati, Green Bay as well as Chicago, who combined might have as much offensive talent as the Saints. All week the Vikings treated Brees, treated Mark Ingram as well as Alvin Kamara as well as Thomas, with respect however not deference, an attitude embodied by the All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Surprised on Friday to field a second consecutive question about Brees, Rhodes nearly shrugged. Yes, Brees will be not bad, his body language seemed to be saying, however have you seen the Vikings’ defense?

On the first four possessions, as fresh Orleans sought to establish a run-pass balance, Brees completed two of six passes — one to Ingram, one to Andrew Sendejo, who plays for Minnesota. which interception, grabbed while falling backward, turned into seven more points, for a 17-0 lead.

On which possession, Latavius Murray had a touchdown run nullified by penalty however, undeterred, scored 5 plays later. Compounding the Saints’ misery, a penalty negated a Ted Ginn Jr. touchdown catch as well as a tipped pass by Everson Griffen landed from the arms of Anthony Barr, stalling their best drive of the half.

Their first-half possessions, aside coming from a kneeldown, included three punts, two interceptions as well as a field goal. After halftime, fresh Orleans scored on four of its 5 drives. however somehow, crazily, improbably, the idea wasn’t enough.

Afterward, the Vikings ran around the field, in disbelief as well as celebration. The Saints, stunned, just shook hands. They had to clear the field after several minutes for the extra point, for which Vikings just knelt, completing an utterly mind-bending game.

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