Washington (AFP) – Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph 4:20 into over-time Sunday and the Vikings upset New Orleans 26-20 to reach the second round of the NFL playoffs.
The Vikings quarterback achieved his first career playoff victory by marching Minnesota 75 yards in nine plays, sparked by his 43-yard completion to Adam Thielen to the Saints 2-yard line three plays before the winning touchdown throw.
“Just happy we won. It was a great game. It was a great team win,” said Cousins after his 14th career game-winning late drive.
Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook ran 28 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns for the visiting Vikings, who will travel to National Conference top seed San Francisco next Saturday.
Seattle visits Philadelphia in the final first-round playoff game later Sunday to decide who plays at National Conference second seed Green Bay next Sunday.
Next weekend’s American Conference matchups find Tennessee at top seed Baltimore on Saturday and Houston at second seed Kansas City on Sunday. Next week’s hosts had first-round byes.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, 10 days shy of his 41st birthday, completed 26-of-33 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown but costly turnovers foiled the favored Saints.
“I’m so proud of the way we fought,” Rudolph said. “Nobody gave us a chance to win today but us.”
Cook’s 1-yard touchdown run with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter capped an eight-play, 64-yard march to give Minnesota a 20-10 lead.
But the Saints answered with an 85-yard drive in eight plays, which ended on a 20-yard Brees touchdown pass to Taysom Hill with 10:31 remaining, pulling New Orleans within 20-17. Brees went 5-for-5 passing for 71 yards in the scoring march.
Brees moved the Saints downfield again but Jamaican-born Danielle Hunter of the Vikings knocked loose a fumble, Brees’s first of the season, and Minnesota’s Jalyn Holmes recovered with 4:18 remaining.
Saints defender A.J. Klein appeared to have recovered a Cook fumble and returned it for a touchdown on the next Vikings possession, but a video review overturned the play, ruling Cook was down before losing the ball, keeping Minnesota ahead.
New Orleans had a final chance in regulation time and Wil Lutz kicked a 49-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the Saints level at 20-20 and send the game into over-time.
Cook’s 5-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds remaining in the second quarter gave the Vikings a 13-10 lead. The play was set up when Brees surrendered his first interception in six games to Minnesota’s Anthony Harris.
Deonte Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards and Brees threw a 20-yard pass to Michael Thomas to the Vikings 25-yard line, but Lutz pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right to leave Minnesota ahead by three at half-time.
The Saints took a 10-3 lead on Alvin Kamara’s 4-yard touchdown run, but the Vikings trimmed the lead on Dan Bailey’s 21-yard field goal.
Lutz kicked a 29-yard field goal and Bailey booted a 43-yarder in the first quarter.
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