SAU Buzz

Cinderella Story Continues For Keenum, Vikings

by Erik Butzen
Posted on Feb 02, 2018

The New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings clashed in Minneapolis for an NFC Divisional Playoff showdown. Quarterback Drew Brees looked to lead his Saints back to the promised land, while Case Keenum and the scorching Vikings looked to continue their hot streak.

The game was all Vikings early as backup running back Jerick Mckinnon ran a 14-yard touchdown after an eight play, 55-yard drive.

Mckinnon and running back counterpart, Latavius Murray, have consistently managed the run game after rookie starter Dalvin Cook went down with a serious knee injury earlier in the year. The duo combined for over 1,400 rushing yards while tallying 11 touchdowns. Murray also had a 1-yard touchdown late in the second quarter of the contest.

The Saints had a hard time containing the running back duo in the first half, falling to a 17-0 deficit.

Both defenses did not let up many big plays in the third quarter, but former Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees finally found his mojo hitting his star receiver, Michael Thomas, for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cut the Vikings’ lead to 17-7. Brees finished the game with nearly 300 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Michael Thomas, a second year wideout from Ohio State, continued to dominate the Minnesota secondary again racking up a short 1-yard pass touchdown from Brees. Thomas caught seven passes on the day for 85 yards. The Vikings had a hard time containing Thomas as their star cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, battled through an injury for most of the game.

Minnesota responded to the Saints touchdown with a drive led by quarterback Case Keenum that resulted in a 49-yard field goal delivered by kicker Kai Forbath to keep their lead at 20-14.

Keenum, an NFL journeyman, had originally been cut by both the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams, and the Houston Texans. The 29-year-old quarterback came into the season as Minnesota’s backup, but an injury to starter Sam Bradford led to Keenum’s best year as a pro.

Despite the Vikings’ drive, the Saints caught fire hitting their star rookie running back Alvin Kamara for another 14-yard touchdown scramble, which gave the Saints their first lead of the game. The former Tennessee Volunteer finished the game with over 100 total yards, establishing his case for being the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

As crunch time started to hit, Forbath hit a long 53-yard field goal to give the Vikings the lead at 23-21.

With ice in his veins, Drew Brees led his Saints down the field with the game on the line to put kicker Will Lutz in position to give them the lead. Lutz nailed the 43-yard field goal and gave the Saints the 24-23 lead with just under a minute left.

Fortunately for the Vikings, a minute was more than enough time for Case Keenum. With the game on the line, Keenum threw a dart to star receiver Stefon Diggs. The play was designed to drive the team into field goal range, but a missed tackle by Saints rookie safety, Marcus Williams, gave Diggs an open lane for Diggs to score the game winning, buzzer beating touchdown, leading the Vikings to their first NFC Championship game since 2010.

The Vikings will travel to Philadelphia next to bump heads with the Nick Foles and the Eagles to see if they can punch their ticket for Super Bowl 2018, which is held at the Vikings’ home turf, the U.S. Bank Stadium.