Vikings bothered by hit that concussed Andrew Sendejo
The Vikings emerged winners on Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints, but one hit didn’t sit well and could have a lasting effect headed into the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia next weekend.
At the end of the third quarter, New Orleans’ comeback attempt was sparked right after Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo was blindsided by Saints receiver Michael Thomas. The hit left Sendejo laying on his back, seemingly in a daze, shortly before he was able to sit up and walk off the field.
Sendejo, who had an impressive leaping interception earlier in the game, was quickly ruled out because of a concussion.
“I thought it was an illegal hit,” fellow safety Harrison Smith said after the Vikings’ 29-24 victory. “Want to talk about defenseless receivers and all that stuff, it’s got to go both ways. That’s what I saw.”
The hit particularly struck the Vikings since Sendejo was suspended one game in October after a hit on Baltimore’s Mike Wallace that left the ex-Vikings receiver in a similar dazed state. Wallace’s helmet was knocked off, Sendejo was flagged for unnecessary roughness and his appeal of the suspension was later denied.
However, there was no penalty for Thomas’ hit on Sendejo. Officials picked up a flag that had been thrown on the play.
“I mean, Sendejo got suspended for what was a legal hit,” Smith said. “So, I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.”
While the Vikings athletic training staff attended to Sendejo, cornerback Xavier Rhodes was visibly angered by the hit and jawing with Saints players. Nose tackle Linval Joseph needed to help restrain Rhodes, who continued to jaw with Thomas through the fourth quarter.
Thomas caught a 14-yard touchdown against Rhodes on the next play.
“As a defense, we had to come together,” Rhodes said. “Me, personally, need to let it go. I was pretty upset about it and didn’t let it go. Now I’m just happy we won.”
Forbath comes through
Kicker Kai Forbath lined up for what could have been the winning field goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game. From 53 yards away, Forbath put the Vikings ahead, made up for his earlier miss from 49 yards and nailed the longest field goal in Vikings postseason history at the same time.
“I was trying to tell myself it’s just like practice,” Forbath said. “I made that kick a million times. Don’t change anything, I didn’t want to have any regrets after it. Just swing normal.”
There weren’t any regrets. Forbath was readying for another possible winner when receiver Stefon Diggs broke free for the winning touchdown on the game’s final play. Forbath hit on three of four field-goal attempts, making another try from 49 yards, and also converted both extra points.
“I was ready to kick another one,” Forbath said, “but what an incredible way to win.”
Wright is Mr. Reliable, again
Quarterback Case Keenum quickly rebounded from his ill-advised interception when he threw a 27-yard pass on a rope to receiver Jarius Wright. The Vikings hurried to the line, which likely helped force Saints coach Sean Payton into a poor challenge of Wright’s catch that cost New Orleans a timeout.
A few plays later, Forbath hit a 49-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 20-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
“We work on it so much in practice,” Wright said. “Kudos to Case for trusting me to get the job done. Man, it just feels good.”
The Vikings started an eighth different offensive line combination by moving tackle Mike Remmers to left guard, where he made his first ever start. Remmers had moved inside to right guard during the season finale win against the Bears.
Keenum took eight hits (two sacks) on 41 dropbacks. The Vikings ran for 3.3 yards per carry and converted seven first downs on the ground.
Vikings defensive tackle Shamar Stephen injured his right knee at the end of the first quarter and was unable to return. Stephen was already dealing with an ankle injury that limited him.