So it’s that time of year, lose you go home, win and you carry on down the yellow brick road and one step closer to the Super Bowl. Playoff season is a whole new ball game and nothing is set in stone, as we know more than most. The Saints (13-3) just missed out on one of the top two seeds in the NFC thus setting up a Wild Card home game vs the Minnesota Vikings (10-6). We did not get what we had all hoped for with the seeding but still its been a great season with so many positives, Drew continuing to break records, Michael Thomas joining in with his own, Davis, Murray, Harris, Cook and Kamara looking good and on point just when we need them. And who can forget our Swiss army knife Taysom Hill who I am sure will have a say in proceedings at some point during the game and throughout the playoffs. We defiantly came into the game with momentum after completing a 3 game winning streak to finish the season and putting up big numbers on offense and giving away low numbers on defence. A Saints win will see them go on the road to face the Green Bay Packers next week in the Divisional Round, a Minnesota win and a Seattle win against the Eagles later on will see the 49er’s face the Vikings.
The Saints would be without Eli Apple (CB), Zach Line (FB), D.J Swearinger (FS), Ethan Greenridge (OL), Noah Spence (DE), Manti Te’o (LB) and Centre Will Clapp. The Vikings had injury worries of their own and I fully expect Brees and Thomas to take full advantage of the lack of weapons in the secondary for the Vikings. Dalvin Cook would be the Vikings main weapon; the Saints have not given up 100 rushing yards to one player this season but we need to be aware of Cook’s threat.
The Saints began the night with a holding penalty and I started to think, oh no not in this game, playoff football is hard enough without giving penalties away, and we have been penalty happy over last couple months. The Vikings continued to drive but soon the Saints had the ball back with Jenkins forcing Adam Thielen to fumble the ball, Von Bell was on hand like a dog on a bone to force the turnover and give the Saints the ball back early on. The Vikings were using their notable weapons in Cook, Diggs and Thielen while on the Saints first drive Cook, Murray, Kamara, Taysom Hill and Michael Thomas all seen action. The Saints would have to settle for a field goal off their opening drive. 3-0 Saints. Will Lutz with his 18th consecutive kick. The Vikings would put away a field goal of their own on the next drive to make it 3-3. Jenkins was an early positive for the Saints. The Offense looked rusty. The Saints would go 3 and out on the next drive as did the Vikings with a sack on Cousins. The second quarter would start with a Vikings punt.
The Second quarter began with a great catch by Michael Thomas, but the Vikings had answers for all the Saints offensive plays, The Saints went three and out again. Turning into a frustrating evening so far. Taysom Hill came into the game on the Saints next drive and boy did he deliver, firstly he ran to give the Saints a first down and then threw a pin point pass to Harris to put Saints in the red zone. Harris’s movement was brilliant and his catch even better, the weak secondary of the Vikings was evident here and the Saints I am sure would look to expose it more as the night went on. Alvin Kamara would go on to convert for the Saints first Touchdown. Lutz converted Saints lead 10-3. The Vikings next drive was impressive but DeMario Davis would take out Cook near the goal line to force the Field Goal, Dan Bailey making it 10-6 Saints. Over to Drew with 2 minutes 49 of second quarter left. Usually his time to shine, but he was intercepted instead, Ginn was in double coverage and it was always a risky pass, even for Drew, he just did not seem himself so far and I was worried, the Vikings defence and I feel a mixture of nerves in the Saints camp made for an uncomfortable first half. Vikings returned it 34 yards to give them a chance to go into the second half with a lead on the next drive from the half way line. Dalvin Cook would finish the drive to put the Vikings in the lead 13-10. The Saints would get another chance before the half to tie the game but Lutz missed the Field Goal. The thing I hate about missed field goals in this game is that they are like gold dust in playoff football and you need to convert them.
The third quarter was like a punting competition at first, it passed quickly as both defences stayed strong. It was the offence that were struggling. The quarter seen one touchdown, Dalvin Cook with the one-yard TD, he would have a very productive night, and break the record held by Saints by smashing the 100 yard rushing barrier against us for first time in a long time. The Vikings lead 20-10 going into the 4th and final quarter.
Taysom Hill was on fire all night and would score a touchdown early on in the 4th quarter, Will Lutz kick was good and the score read 20-17. The Saints were pushing on to try to either win the game or tie it and take it to overtime. With seconds remaining we had the chance to go for the TD but a penalty took 10 seconds off the clock and forced the 49-yard field goal, Lutz made it. Onto overtime. 20-20.
Next goal the winner as we used to say on the streets as kids, although this really was next goal the winner unlike games back then that went on for days. Vikings received the ball off the kick off and had the chance to win the game with a TD. I felt sick, the Minnesota Miracle, the Rams game all flashed before my eyes, I was proud of the team but so angry at same time that once again it looked to be over and we had blown it again. Cousins went on to lead the Vikings to victory, a long deep pass to Thielen (43 yards) set them up perfectly, Cousins found Rudolph for the TD and it was heartbreak again. The Saints season came to an end just like that. It hurts it really does, but would I follow any other team or be part of any other family. No. So we dust ourselves down and we go again. Cause that’s what true fans do right? Right.
I hope to see Drew return for another season but if not thank you for the memories and everything you have done for the Who Dat Nation, I am sure I speak for all UK Saints fans when I say this, Drew…Thank you.
Until next time. Who Dat!