Vikings, down to last play, stun Saints with 61-yard TD pass
MINNEAPOLIS — Case Keenum completed a last-ditch heave near the sideline Sunday on the game’s final play, and Stefon Diggs sprinted away from the defenders for a 61-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 29-24 victory over New Orleans and send the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.
Quarterback Drew Brees had driven the Saints in position for Wil Lutz’s go-ahead 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining, punctuating a rally from a 17-point deficit that stood until 1:16 was left in the third quarter.
The Vikings were out of timeouts and nearly out of options when Keenum dropped back with 10 seconds to go from his 39 and threw high into a crowd. Diggs jumped in front of defensive back Marcus Williams, who rolled awkwardly underneath Diggs in an attempt at a tackle.
Diggs held his ground, kept his feet in bounds and raced untouched into the end zone as the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium erupted.
This wasn’t quite Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception for Pittsburgh in the 1972 playoffs, but this Minnesota team is on a special path. The Vikings were 13-3 in the regular season, giving Keenum, a career backup, the keys to the offense after Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury after the opener.
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Minnesota will play for the NFC title at Philadelphia on Sunday, after Jacksonville takes on New England for the AFC crown.
Now the Vikings have spun an unprecedented scenario in NFL history. On Sunday, instead of the usual win-or-go-home stakes, they’re in a win-and-go-home situation with the Super Bowl set for Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Though only defensive end Brian Robison remains from the 2009 team that lost in overtime of the NFC Championship game at New Orleans, the Vikings got a bit of payback for their fans Sunday.
The Vikes put their faithful through quite the emotional finish to complete it.
Brees connected with Michael Thomas for two touchdown passes in a span of 3:09 of the second half. The first score came after a 12-play, 80-yard drive. The second was set up at the Minnesota 40 by an interception by Williams after an off-balance throw by Keenum, his one costly moment of either inexperience or recklessness.
Dave Campbell is an Associated Press writer.
Who: Vikings at Eagles
When: 3:40 p.m. Sunday
TV/Radio: Channel: 2 Channel: 40 / 680