NEW ORLEANS — The dreams of a Super Bowl run for the New Orleans Saints were dashed on Sunday in the NFC Wild Card round.
New Orleans fell in overtime, 26-20, inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to visiting Minnesota as the Vikings scored the game-winning touchdown on the first possession of overtime. The Saints end the season 13-4 overall.
How It Happened:
The Saints defense stepped on the very first drive of the game.
New Orleans cornerback Janoris Jenkins forced Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen to cough up the ball with a hard hit along the sideline and Vonn Bell recovered it. The offense took over but New Orleans was unable to find the end zone as the ensuing 8-play drive stalled and the Saints had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Will Lutz.
Minnesota responded with a 11-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 43-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.
The Saints managed a mere 25 total yards in the first quarter which was the lowest yardage total for an opening quarter all season. At the end of the first, the score was tied 3-3.
New Orleans’ offense woke up in the second quarter with a connection between a pair of special team standouts. After taking a direct snap for a 11-yard gain, backup quarterback-special teams star Taysom Hill threw a 50-yard pass down the middle to rookie return man-wide receiver Deonte Harris. That set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Alvin Kamara.
Minnesota got back on the score board with a 12-play, 72-play scoring drive but the Vikings had to settle for a field goal. Facing third-and-goal from the one-yard line, running back Dalvin Cook tried to bust it to the left side but linebacker DeMario Davis stopped him for a loss of two yards. Bailey made the ensuing 21-yard field goal to make it 10-6.
Then right before the two-minute warning, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was intercepted after under throwing Ted Ginn Jr. in double coverage down the middle of the field.
The Vikings made them pay for the miscue with a 7-play, 45-yard drive which was capped with a 5-yard touchdown run by Cook. The extra point was good and Minnesota held a 13-10 lead.
Harris gave the Saints a spark by returning the ensuing kickoff 50 yards and then Brees found Michael Thomas for a 20-yard reception. That set up a 43-yard field goal attempt by Lutz but he pushed it right.
At the break, the Vikings led 13-10.
The Saints offensive woes continued to start the second half as the team managed only 14 total yards on its first two possessions — both resulting in punts.
The Vikings meanwhile managed to extend their lead with a 8-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Cook. With 3:17 left in the third quarter, the Saints trailed 20-10.
The Saints offense woke up in the fourth quarter with a 8-play, 85-yard touchdown drive as Brees found Hill in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and New Orleans had cut the lead to 20-17 with 10:31 left in the game.
After forcing Minnesota to punt, New Orleans was putting together a lengthy drive (6 plays, 35 yards) and got the ball into the red zone. With the ball on the 20-yard line, Brees took a sack and lost a fumble.
New Orleans appeared to have taken the lead with as Bell scooped up a lost ball by Cook and ran it back for a 38-yard touchdown. The play was reviewed and Cook was ruled down before the fumble.
New Orleans’ defense forced Minnesota to punt the ball.
The Saints began the drive from their own 25-yard line.
Brees led the Saints down the field with a 7-play, 39-yard drive in a 1:53. Lutz came out and made the 49-yard field goal attempt to tie the game and force overtime.
Minnesota took the opening possession of the extra period and went 75 yards in only 9 plays as Cousins found tight end Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone for the game-winning 4-yard touchdown.
Big Number: 2
The number of turnovers committed by Brees in Sunday’s stunning loss. The Saints legendary quarterback did not have his best game as he completed 26-of-33 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown but Brees also had an interception and a lost fumble — the latter occurring near the red zone late in the game.
Player of the Game: Taysom Hill
The Saints needed a spark on offense and the team’s Swiss Army Knife gave them that throughout the game. Hill threw a 50-yard pass that set up a short touchdown run, led the team in rushing with 4 carries for 50 yards and caught two passes for 25 yards including a 20-yard touchdown.
Next Up: The season comes to an end for the New Orleans Saints. The team will now prepare for the NFL Draft which will be held April 25-27 in Nashville.