US BANK STADIUM, MN – The Minnesota Vikings came crashing back to earth on Sunday night, losing to the visiting New Orleans Saints, 30-20, in a rematch from last season’s Divisional Round.
In a game that many viewed as a barometer for where each of these teams stood in the NFC hierarchy, the Vikings stumbled on the national stage. Despite getting a respectable performance from their banged-up defense, it was mistakes by the Vikings’ offense that proved to be the team’s undoing. Quarterback Kirk Cousins went 31-41 for 359 yards and two touchdowns but threw an interception that was returned for a score and took four sacks.
Receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs had big games in the loss as well. Thielen had seven catches for 103 yards (his eighth straight 100-yard game) and a touchdown, but also had the fumble that ultimately turned the game in favor of the Saints as they would score a touchdown just two plays later.
Diggs had 10 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, but was in-part responsible for Cousins’ pick-six in the third quarter. The fourth-year receiver stopped his route just as Cousins was releasing his throw. Saints’ safety, P.J. Williams ended up being the only one in the vicinity of the pass, which he caught and returned for the 45-yard score.
Aside from surrendering the opening series touchdown, the defense did well to keep the Saints from driving down the field and getting touchdowns. They held them to three field goals on possessions that New Orleans had to start inside their own territory. The last two touchdowns were on a drive that started inside the Vikings’ red zone and a pick-six.
- Adam Thielen continues to establish himself as one of the NFL’s elite at his position. He has yet to go under 100 yards in a game this season. In doing so, he tied Lions’ receiving great, Calvin Johnson, for consecutive 100-yard games. That’s some great company to be in.
- The defense overcame the losses of Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr to put together a strong performance. To hold Drew Brees to just 123 passing yards is saying something. Had the offense not given the ball away twice, the defense’s performance was arguably good enough to win in this game. Speaking of which…
- The Vikings outgained the Saints 423 to 270 in total yards. But they undid themselves because of two costly turnovers. Those turnovers led directly to 14 points that turned the momentum of the game.
- Play-calling continues to be an issue that costs them at the worst times possible. It cost them early in the third quarter on a fourth-and-one at their own 45-yard line. For whatever reason, the Vikings went with an empty backfield and tried to go down the field, rather than either to straight run the ball or attack with a run-pass option play. The pass was broken up and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs.
- The offensive line continues to struggle. Although they weren’t helped on some of the sacks by Kirk Cousins holding the ball too long, their performance was still mediocre. When it only takes a three-man rush to get to the quarterback, you’ve got problems. This line needs help.