Written by Rance Gardner
All week we heard how the Vikings didn't have a chance Sunday in New Orleans. Experts, Cameron Jordan, Vegas, the NFL's own media department, all didn't take Kirk Cousins and the Vikings serious. After Minnesota's 26-20 OT victory on the road and Kirk's ice-cold game-winning drive, there is no better combination of words in the entire English language to say than you like that?
Although it ended well, the game got off to a rocky start for the Vikings offense. Adam Thielen fumbled on the opening possession deep in their own territory and for Minnesota fans, it felt like the beginning of another painful postseason loss. The Vikings were able to quickly shake that off and the defense held the Saints to a field goal after the turnover. Thielen did not let the early mistake affect him as he finished the game with 127 yards receiving. None was bigger than his 43-yard reception in overtime on a dime from Cousins. Thielen said after the game he learned to overcome adversity in college by imagining flushing the mistakes down the toilet and tricking his mind into forgetting about it. Dalvin Cook also gave New Orleans headaches for the majority of the game. Cook finished with 130 total yards and 2 touchdowns. Other than the Thielen fumble and an ill-timed tantrum by Stefon Diggs on the sidelines, the Vikings offense played well in a tough environment. Finally, can enough be said about the narrative shredding, history-making drive by Kirk Cousins in overtime? When the moment was most crucial, ice water ran through his veins and he threw 2 of the best clutch time passes you'll ever see to Thielen and Rudolph. You got to be happy for Kirk and this team. So many doubters, so many people counting them out and they used it all as fuel.
I'm going to spend less time talking about the defense despite the fact that they were absolutely dominant for 90% of the game. With injuries in their secondary, the Minnesota defense played fantastic. Holding one of the league's best offenses to 20 points or less is a huge accomplishment. Sendejo stepped up in a huge way in Mack Alexander and Mike Hughes' absence. Zimmer's decision to rotate D lineman across all 4 front positions gave the Saints problems. Danielle Hunter continues to prove he is the best young defensive end in the NFL. His sack-fumble on Drew Brees late in the 4th quarter took away what looked like was going to be easy points for the Saints. I can't say enough about the heart this team has and it starts with guys like Everson Griffen. He continues to wreak havoc on opposing teams when you need him to most. If the Vikings defense plays like this every game in the postseason, Minnesota could very well see themselves hold up their first Lombardi trophy.
We all know what happened the last time the Vikings won an emotional playoff game against the Saints. Minnesota must make sure to stay focused on next week as they now will face the NFC's top overall seed on the road in San Francisco next Saturday. The Vikings must continue to use the doubters as motivation and continue to embrace the underdog role. The team's mantra this postseason is "Go Get It", that's all they have to do. If they play to their best capabilities, we may hear a "you like that?!" In February. And that would be the sweetest one of all.