Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
The Minnesota Vikings handed the New Orleans Saints another disappointing playoff loss, coming away with a 26-20 Wild Card Round victory.
Dalvin Cook returned from his shoulder injury to total 130 yards from scrimmage Sunday, while Kirk Cousins did enough to earn his first career playoff win. The Saints overcame a 10-point deficit going into the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, but Cousins came through with huge plays in overtime to seal the road win.
The squad handed New Orleans its second straight playoff loss in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after winning six in a row.
Drew Brees totaled 208 passing yards, but he wasn’t able to prevent a third straight early exit for a team with higher expectations. Despite 26 regular-season wins over the past two seasons, it’s only led to one playoff win for the Saints in this stretch.
- Drew Brees, QB, NO: 26-of-33, 208 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Taysom Hill, QB, NO: 1-of-1, 50 passing yards, 4 carries, 50 rushing yards, 2 catches, 25 receiving yards, 1 TD
- Michael Thomas, WR, NO: 7 catches, 70 receiving yards
- Kirk Cousins, QB, MIN: 19-of-31, 242 passing yards, 1 TD
- Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN: 28 carries, 94 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches, 36 receiving yards
- Adam Thielen, WR, MIN: 7 catches, 129 receiving yards
Dalvin Cook Lifts Vikings Offense and Kirk Cousins Finishes
The Vikings limped into the playoffs with three losses in the last five after the Week 12 bye, including two straight losses to end the year with Dalvin Cook on the sideline with a shoulder injury.
It was clear the team looked different with the Pro Bowler on the field.
Cook was dominant while getting regular work in the offense.
The Saints entered Sunday having gone 42 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, but the Vikings star dominated in the first half with 84 rushing yards and 19 receiving yards.
It also clearly made a huge difference to the Vikings offense, which had struggled mightily in the past few weeks.
While Cook moved the chains, Cousins found more openings down the field with big completions to Adam Thielen and others.
Things weren’t quite the same after halftime, however, as New Orleans keyed on the run and kept Cook in check. The star runner had eight carries for negative-two yards in the second half, and it led to just seven Minnesota points and a Saints comeback.
Fortunately, the team’s high-priced quarterback came through when it mattered with some huge throws in the overtime period.
Cousins has gotten plenty of criticism, but he did enough to lead his team to victory.
Taysom Hill Shines but Drew Brees Struggles for Saints Offense
The Saints had the No. 3 scoring offense in the NFL this season while averaging 36.3 points per game in the last seven weeks, but it didn’t look that way against the Vikings on Sunday.
Minnesota continually dominated the line of scrimmage, keeping the run game in check while making Drew Brees uncomfortable in the passing attack.
The Vikings also forced a pair of key turnovers to keep them ahead.
The only person who could do anything for the Saints offense is a man who did a little bit of everything: Taysom Hill.
The backup quarterback lined up all over the field offensively, and his impact couldn’t be overstated.
However, it was the starting quarterback who struggled. Brees did enough to force overtime, but his lack of consistency prevented the Saints from escaping with a win. He never got a chance in overtime in a disappointing loss.
While the 40-year-old is one of the best to ever play the sport, he couldn’t get it done when it was needed, and the Saints suffered.
The Vikings will now take on the No. 1 seed San Francisco 49ers on Saturday in what could be a hard-fought battle between teams that rely on rushing and defense.