In possibly the greatest game of the year the Minnesota Vikings are off to the NFC championship after defeating the New Orleans Saints 29-24 at U.S. Bank Stadium in dramatic fashion Sunday.
The Vikings got off to a hot start as running back Jerick McKinnon ran for a 14-yard touchdown only 5:15 into the game. Kicker Kai Forbath kicked in a 20-yard field goal to give Minnesota a quick 10 point lead after first quarter. The Vikings continued their success in the second quarter as running back Latavius Murray reached over the goal line at 5:02 into the second to give Minnesota a 17-0 lead at the half.
At the half, it seemed that the Saints would not be able to generate anything offensively as quarterback Drew Brees struggled only racking up 118 yards and throwing two interceptions.
However, Sean Payton must have had a heck of a halftime speech because New Orleans came out flying in the third quarter. Wide receiver Michael Thomas caught a three-yard pass with 1:18 remaining to cut the Vikings lead to 10.
Entering the fourth, New Orleans continued to build momentum as Brees' veteran swagger had returned. Forbath was able to kick a 49-yard field goal 4:48 into the final period but Brees lead the Saints on a quick four play 40-yard drive that was capped off by an Alvin Kamara touchdown with 3:01 remaining to give the Saints their first lead of the game 21-20.
Again the Vikings would answer with a field goal to regain the lead with 1:29 left. As we have seen time and time again it was too much time for Brees as he marched the Saints down on a 50-yard, 11 play drive to set up a Wil Lutz 43-yard field goal that seemingly wrapped up the game and left Vikings fans with a familiar sour taste in their mouths about a field goal in the postseason.
The Vikings would get the ball back with 25 ticks left on the clock. The drive didn't start out so great as Minnesota was backed up five yards for a false start penalty before the drive even began. Then, quarterback Case Keenum hit eventual hero Stefon Diggs for 19 yards in the middle of the field. After a Saints timeout and an incompletion by Keenum, it set up a 3rd and 10 with just 10 seconds to go.
Improbable Play from the Improbable Starter
Then, the unimaginable happened. Keenum snapped the ball, facing a heavy Saints pass rush, the improbable 2017 postseason starter heaved up an improbable pass. Somehow, Diggs was able to corral the pass and land on his feet. Saints rookie Marcus Williams was in position to make the tackle but instead put his head down without making contact to allow Diggs to scamper for a 61-yard touchdown with no time remaining.
Officials reviewed the play to ensure that Diggs remained in-bounds and confirmed the scoring play. They then forced Minnesota to run the play after kick to make the scoring play official. The Vikings elected to take a knee in front of an ecstatic Minnesota crowd chanting "Skol!"
Minnesota will now travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. If the Vikings win, they will become the first NFL franchise in history to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. After this dramatic win, it seems like this could be the Cinderella story the Vikings have dreamed about.