NEW ORLEANS - The # 6 seed Minnesota Vikings (10-6) advance to the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFC playoff after defeating the #3 seed New Orleans Saints (13-3) by the final score of 26-20 inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Wild Card Weekend.
With the Mercedes-Benz Superdome hosting its first playoff game since the 2019 NFC Championship game, Sean Payton challenged the “Who Dat Nation” to create a true playoff atmosphere against the Minnesota Vikings. As the crowd made their playoff presence felt from the start, the Saints defense immediately gave the crowd something to get loud about as Janoris Jenkins forced a fumble after an Adam Thielen reception on the game’s opening drive setting up the Saints in Minnesota Territory early in the first quarter.
The Saints’ offense settled for a Wil Lutz field goal after the takeaway and failed to find a rhythm offensively until the fourth quarter. On the Saints first eight drives of the game Drew Brees and company converted a lackluster nine first downs and went into the fourth quarter with only 10 points on the scoreboard.
In the fourth quarter, New Orleans’ offense finally came to life on an 8 play, 85-yard drive where Drew Brees went 5 of 5 for 71 yards, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill that cut the Vikings lead to 3 points. Following a defensive stand by the Saints, Brees continued his dominate fourth quarter play with a two-minute drill that set up Wil Lutz with a 48 yard field goal that sent the game into Overtime.
Mike Zimmer’s Vikings had a flurry of offensive reinforcements Wild Card Weekend as the Vikes had not had both RB Dalvin Cook (Shoulder) and WR Adam Thielen (Hamstring) active for the same game since Week 9 of the regular season. After missing the last two weeks of the regular season the former Florida State standout Dalvin Cook looked rested and refreshed in his first career playoff appearance rushing for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns and giving the Saints defense a handful in the first half. Thielen, in his first meaningful game in over a month, finished as the Vikings leading receiver and set up the game winning touchdown with 7 receptions for 129 yards. Saints CB Janoris Jenkins kept Thielen's running mate WR Stefon Diggs in check for sixty plus minutes with only 2 receptions for 19 yards.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who was 0-1 in playoff games entering Sunday's matchup, trotted his offense out onto the field to open the overtime period and never allowed Drew Brees to see the field. "Captain Kirk" won his first NFL playoff game by orchestrating a 9 play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Kyle Rudolph walk off touchdown grab. With the victory the Vikings advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs and travel to Levi Stadium to battle the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers.
FIRST HALF WOES:
The Saints offense ended the regular season clicking on all cylinders, averaging 40 points per game over the last 4 games. However, the Saints offense looked nothing like the dynamic high-powered offense that had been displayed over the second half of the season. New Orleans set a season low with only 25 yards in the first quarter and finished the first half only possessing the ball for 11 minutes. Drew Brees accounted for 63 yards, 0 TDs and an INT as the Saints marched to the locker room trailing 13-10 at halftime.
JACK OF ALL SAINTS:
Bleacher Report’s Gridiron Heights asked it best in November 2018, “What exactly is Taysom Hill’s job”? While the answer in the show’s Thanksgiving episode was “Nobody Knows”, over a year later the league has an actual answer… to be an X-factor.
The do it all BYU product showed his versatility yet again against the Vikings helping lead the Saints to their first touchdown of Wildcard Weekend. On the 4-play drive, Hill ran the QB option to perfection picking up 11 yards, and one play later launched a 50-yard pass to All-Pro Kick returner Deonte Harris to set the Saints up first and goal. Hill’s remarkable drive was not over yet, on first and goal, Hill provided the lead block that lead to Alvin Kamara’s touchdown run that gave the Saints a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. Hill became the first player in NFL history with at least 25 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, and 25 receiving yards in a single playoff game.
For the third time in the past three seasons the Saints have lost a playoff game on the final play of overtime or regulation and now back to back inside of the friendly confines of the Superdome. The playoff losses in each of the past two seasons are the only home playoff losses in the Payton/Brees era (2006).
Following a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the New Orleans Saints season comes to an end. The Saints won the NFC South for the third consecutive season, while finishing 13-3 back-to-back seasons. The Vikings advance to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs to face the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers at Levi Stadium next weekend.
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