The Saints beat the Vikings 30-20 on Sunday night, but it's not like New Orleans walked into U.S. Bank Stadium and acted like they owned the place.
Minnesota, if not for costly mistakes, outplayed the Saints in nearly every aspect of the game. The difference between a win and a loss were a pair of critical turnovers.
Adam Thielen, who had his eighth straight 100-yard receiving game to start the season, had a costly fumble late in the second quarter. Two plays later Alvin Kamara crossed the goal line for his second touchdown, turning what should've been a 16-10 or 20-10 Minnesota lead into a 17-13 Saints lead.
"We're a really good football team, but you can't make mistakes in this league and win, especially on critical situations when you have the ball in the red zone," Thielen said. "Obviously I'm going to think about that one for a while, and I'm definitely disappointed in myself."
The pick-six Kirk Cousins threw in the third quarter to P.J. Williams was a gift that pushed thlead to 27-13. Take away those two turnovers and the Vikings likely would've had a big lead.
Some key points to consider
Defense was awesome: the Saints boast one of the best offenses in the NFL but the Vikings, even without Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr and Andrew Sendejo, held them to just 270 total yards and 5.1 yards per play.
Brees finished 18-of-23 passing with 120 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a passer rating of 84.8. It's the second-lowest yardage total in 197 career starts for Brees.
Only two of the Saints' scoring drives were longer than 35 yards.
Thielen, Diggs dominate: the unstoppable duo was at it again, combining for 17 receptions, 223 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs had 10 catches for 110 yards and a score while Thielen's seven grabs for 103 yards and a score tied Calvin Johnson's NFL record with eight straight 100-yard receiving games.
Thielen is on pace to finish with 153 catches for 1,879 yards and 11 touchdowns. Diggs is on pace for 110 catches.
Blame the kicker? No, it's not that simple, but Dan Bailey's missed extra point in the first half had a direct effect on Minnesota late in the game. Had Bailey made the kick, the Vikings could've gone for two after Thielen's touchdown to get within eight points of the Saints. Instead, the touchdown made it 30-19, meaning a two-point conversion would've been useless.
Even if they did go for two and get within eight, the Vikings would've needed to recover and onside kick, score and go for two again just to tie the game at 30.
Need to beat Detroit: a loss at home to the Lions next Sunday would be catastrophic for the Vikings, who are under a ton of pressure to enter the bye with a record of 5-3-1. Remember, the schedule after the bye is daunting:
- at Chicago
- vs. Green Bay
- at New England
- at Seattle
- vs. Miami
- at Detroit
- vs. Chicago
That's borderline terrifying, but as long as the Vikings perform well against the Bears, Packers and Lions, they have a very good shot at winning the division.