26-20 in OT!
NEW ORLEANS— In New Orleans during the tragedy and flooding of Hurricane Katrina, bodies were said to be floating around because the cemeteries can’t put the dead six feet underground. Being so close to the Gulf coast, New Orleans’ dead are buried above ground.
After the Vikings’ stunning victory, Saints fans, thousands of them, were crushed. We were reminded of scenes from the series the “Walking Dead” with thousands in a state of shock.
The dream is still alive for the Vikings in this, the 100th season of the NFL. When you have never won the (Vince Lombardi Trophy) Super Bowl, or an NFL Championship for that matter, each Viking team that reaches the playoffs carries that enormous burden.
Sunday the Vikings played like champions. They delivered one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history.
When you’re an eight-point underdog, the odds are against you big time from the start. At Mercedes Benz Stadium with 77,000 fans in the home of Mardi Gras, the Vikings shut that party down. It was a complete performance of offense, defense and special teams, and then the Vikings had good fortune as well.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins carries the gorilla burden on his back of being a $84 million guaranteed quarterback. With a 0-10 record vs. winning teams (0-9 on “Monday Night Football” and 7-15 in prime-time games), Cousins takes the heat when the Vikings don’t win. Going into Sunday, the Vikings had lost two in a row to rivals Chicago and Green Bay.
Sunday, Cousins won his first career playoff game. He’s now 1-1. He slayed the great Drew Brees, a Hall-of-Fame quarterback who has thrown more career touchdown passes (545) than any quarterback in NFL history.
Cousins was sensational. He completed 19 of 31 for 242 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was four yards to Kyle Rudolph to win the game in overtime. Controversial? Yes! The NFL, after review, determined that Rudolph did not push off to gain an advantage.
Dalvin Cook was the man. He was dynamic with 28 carries for 94 yards and three receptions for 36 yards. Adam Thielen is back healthy with seven catches for 129 yards including an over-the-shoulder 43-yard overtime catch from Cousins that set up the game-winning touchdown.
The defense contained the potent Saints offense. Michael Thomas, who had an NFL-record 149 catches for 1,725 yards, was held to seven catches for 50 yards. And, the Vikings controlled the Saints’ running game and put heat on Brees. They won the turnover ratio 2-1, which is critical on the road.
They never let Brees get comfortable. Defensive ends Danelle Hunter and Everson Griffen combined for three sacks and six QB pressures. Harrison Smith had 11 tackles, Anthony Barr had eight tackles and Anthony Harris another interception. Punter Britton Colquitt was brilliant, averaging 49 yards per punt and keeping the Saints deep in their own end.
The Vikings now travel to San Francisco next Saturday to play the number-one NFC team, the 13-3 West Champion 49ers. So far in 2020, the playoffs have seen three road teams win: Seattle, Tennessee and the Vikings. The 11-6 Vikings are 5-4 on the road and can play with anybody. They have a complete team.
I was visiting with Vikings great Steve Jordan at the Loews Hotel in New Orleans on Saturday night before the game. His son Cameron plays for the Saints. Jordan had fond memories of being on the 1987 Vikings team that beat the Saints 44-10 in the Super Dome and then went to San Francisco and beat the 49ers 36-24.
With New England and Tom Brady and the Saints and Brees eliminated, eight teams remain. Among the elite eight, four of the teams have Black starting quarterback—Deshawn Watson (Houston), Pat Mahomes (Kansas City), Russell Wilson (Seattle), and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore).
Get ready for some fireworks. The NFL playoffs are at it again.