Vikings 26, Saints 20
Saints vs Vikings Wildcard Playoff: Good, bad and ugly
In the second overtime game of Wildcard Weekend, the Saints managed to lose a thriller at home to the Vikings. Here are my observations:
-I can't say enough about Taysom Hill. The guy does damn near everything! He lead the Saints to their first touchdown of the day with a nice run, 50 yard pass to Deonte Harris, and was Alvin Kamara's lead block out the backfield on the touchdown run. He ran the ball four times, and produced a first down every time. When Sean Payton says Hill could be Drew Brees' eventual successor, I tend to believe him now more than I did before.
-Demario Davis has been the Saints best defensive player not named Cam Jordan since his arrival. He makes plays all over the field in the run and pass game. His leadership on and off the field has been just as valuable. His touchdown-saving tackle on Dalvin Cook in the 2nd quarter helped hold the Vikings to a field goal instead of tying the game.
-Another one of the better defenders on this Saints defense has been Marcus Williams. The young safety led the team with 10 tackles and was very much needed. He was often tasked with making tackles when the front seven couldn't stop the run game or when his teammates in the secondary couldn't cover their guys. The only gripe I had was him not being able to get over the top when the Vikings went deep in overtime.
-The defense got their first opening drive turnover of the season this year. Good, right? Not good when the offense takes over on the Vikings' 37 yard line, drive it inside the 10, and come away with only a field goal. The key play was Brees taking an uncharacteristic sack on 3rd&Goal from 4 yard line. In games like this against tough defenses, you have to take advantage of field position and score touchdowns.
-Missed tackles have become the team's Achilles heel. Whether it's not making a sure tackle that leads to extra yards by a running back or receiver, this defense continues to look like a group of first time tackle football playing kids when it comes to the game's most fundamental principle on that side of the ball.
-Dalvin Cook managed to break the Saints run defense. He ran for 96 yards on 26 carries along with two touchdowns. It broke the Saints down completely. Not only does a pounding run game hurt, but it also opened up the play action pass game as well as other aspects of the Vikings' offense.
-On their first eight possessions of the game, the Saints had nine first downs, 158 total yards, and gave up two sacks plus a ton of pressures. They couldn't get into a rhythm. Outside of the Hill-led touchdown drive, they were gifted three points off the fumble they recovered for a total of 10 points and went into the 4th quarter down 20-10.
-The Brees interception just before the two minute warning for halftime was critical. Not only did he throw into double coverage, but it also allowed the Vikings to take the lead 13-10. They had a chance to tie it after Harris brought the kickoff back 57 yards, but Will Lutz missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. These are the sequences that can be pointed to when teams lose games.
-There were two crucial plays that helped put the Saints in position to lose this game: the Brees fumble in the 4th quarter when they were in field goal range and Will Lutz's missed field goal to end the 1st half. Both took points off the board and both occurred in very critical times. But the worst goes to whoever put Patrick Robinson on Adam Thielen for a 40-yard completion to the 2 yard line.
The Saints have proved to be almost unbeatable at home in the playoffs. That myth was thoroughly busted today. This team has now made an awful habit of losing some of the closest, most heart-breaking playoff games. While there were blown calls by the refs against both teams, none of them would've changed the outcome. Hill was team MVP this game. He helped spur this team on when it seemed like no one else could. If any one player has to take the blame for this loss, it would be Brees. His two turnovers directly impacted the outcome and took points off the board (the fumble), or helped put points on the board for the Vikings (the interception). Another year, another terrible way to end the season for the Saints.