EditorsNote: update 2: adds quotes
Kirk Cousins threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph on the first possession of overtime as the visiting Minnesota Vikings defeated the New Orleans Saints 26-20 in an NFC wild-card playoff Sunday afternoon.
Minnesota won the coin toss to start overtime and used a 43-yard pass from Cousins to Adam Thielen to get a first down at the New Orleans 2. After two runs by Dalvin Cook set up third-and-goal from the 4, Cousins found Rudolph in the left corner in the back of the end zone against cornerback P.J. Williams.
“I’m so proud of our team, the way we fought,” Rudolph said afterward on the Fox broadcast. “Nobody gave us a chance to win here today, except for everybody in our organization. We believed.”
The Vikings, the No. 6 seed after finishing 10-6, advance to play at No. 1 seed San Francisco next Saturday. The Saints were the No. 3 seed after winning the NFC South with a 13-3 record.
Cook rushed 28 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns, and Thielen caught seven passes for 129 yards, including his diving grab — which came with top Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore on the sideline with an injury — to set up the winning score. Cousins completed 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards in his first road playoff start.
“I’m proud of Kirk, blocking out the noise, coming down here and playing huge all game,” Rudolph said.
Drew Brees completed 26 of 33 for 208 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception and lost a fumble. It was the Saints’ first game all season with multiple turnovers committed.
“At the end of the day they made a few more plays than we did,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “It took us a while to get going offensively, then we got a little momentum in the second half. Our defense held up. You have to tip your hats to Minnesota. They deserved to win.”
Minnesota led 13-10 at halftime and extended its lead on Cook’s 1-yard touchdown run with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
The Saints went scoreless in the second half until Brees threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill to pull within 20-17 with 10:31 remaining.
New Orleans drove to a first down at the Vikings 20 on its next possession, but Brees fumbled while being sacked by Danielle Hunter. Jalyn Holmes recovered for Minnesota at its 36.
Four plays later New Orleans appeared to take the lead when Cook was tackled, the ball came loose and safety Vonn Bell picked up the ball and ran 38 yards to the end zone. But replays showed that Cook was down by contact before the ball came loose, and the touchdown was overturned.
The Saints then forced a punt, and Brees drove them 39 yards to Wil Lutz’s 49-yard field goal with two seconds left to tie the score and force overtime.
“I thought we played well in all three phases,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “New Orleans is a really good football team. We were a little bit undermanned on defense, but they fought their rear ends off. I think we’re tough.”
—Field Level Media