The Vikings will not be making a return trip to the playoffs.
Minnesota's postseason hopes ended Friday on Christmas Day with a 52-33 loss to the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which was the site of a Vikings playoff win 355 days ago.
The Vikings are now 6-9 and have lost three straight games after pulling to 6-6 and getting into a playoff spot entering Week 14.
The Vikings have continued their recent trend of alternating playoff appearances under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Minnesota made the postseason after the 2015, 2017 and 2019 regular seasons, but has missed the playoffs in even years since 2014.
Minnesota had no answer for Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who had a career day with 155 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. The touchdown total tied the NFL record of Minnesota native Ernie Nevers, who accomplished the feat in 1929.
The Vikings allowed a season-worst 264 rushing yards, topping the 199 yards allowed last week to the Bears.
The Vikings defense — which was missing multiple starters — gave up a franchise-worst 583 yards. Minnesota also gave up a season-worst 52 points, the most allowed by Minnesota since the 1963 season.
Offensively, the Vikings put up 364 yards of offense. Kirk Cousins threw a trio of scores to set a single-season career high with 32 touchdown passes.
Here are four more takeaways from Friday afternoon:
1. Smith, Jr., thrives in New Orleans homecoming
It wasn't Irv Smith, Jr.'s first NFL game in his hometown of New Orleans, but it was definitely his best.
The second-year tight end caught a pair of scores at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which is less than five miles from Brother Martin High School, where Smith graduated from in 2015.
Smith, whose father was a Saints first-round pick in 1993, scored on passes of 2 and 4 yards from Cousins in the third quarter.
Smith now has a pair of multi-score games this season, as he also had two touchdown catches in a 34-20 win over the Lions in Week 9 at home.
The former Alabama standout has a career-high five touchdown catches this season. He has seven scores in his career. He had six catches for 53 yards against the Saints.
The elder Irv Smith had 15 touchdowns in his career with the Saints, 49ers and Browns.
2. Hand, Nickerson get 1*st* NFL INTs on Brees
Friday will be a Christmas to remember for Harrison Hand … and Hardy Nickerson.
The Vikings defensive players each recorded their first career interceptions of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
Hand's interception came in the red zone in the second quarter, as he stepped in front of a pass for Jared Cook for the turnover.
Hand, a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, also showed his mettle on punt coverage early in the third quarter. He raced down the field to stop Austin Carr for a 1-yard punt return.
Nickerson's pick came off a pass that bounced off the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, but the linebacker had great recognition to corral the ball for the interception.
3. Cook hits 1,500-yard milestone
Dalvin Cook entered Friday's game with 1,484 rushing yards, so it was no surprise when he hit the 1,500-yard mark.
The running back hit that milestone on his second carry of the game. His first carry went for 15 to put him at 1,499 yards, and he surpassed it on his next attempt with a gain of 2.
Cook is the third Vikings running back in team history to have a 1,500-yard season.
Adrian Peterson did it twice — with 2,097 yards in 2012 and 1,760 yards in 2008. Robert Smith had 1,521 rushing yards in 2000.
Cook had 15 carries for 73 yards and a score Friday. He currently has a career-high 1,557 rushing yards.
He also leads the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns, and 1,918 yards from scrimmage. That yardage total ranks second in Vikings history behind Adrian Peterson's 2,314 yards in 2012.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Saints on Christmas Day during Week 16.
4. Another halftime deficit
The Vikings got off to another sluggish start, as Minnesota trailed at halftime for the fourth straight game.
A touchdown by New Orleans in the final minute of the first half put Minnesota down 24-14 on Friday. The Vikings last lead at the break with a 10-7 cushion over the Panthers back in Week 12.
In Week 13, the Vikings trailed 9-6 against the Jaguars. Minnesota trailed 17-6 at Tampa Bay in Week 14, and 20-10 at home to Chicago last weekend.
The 24 points allowed in the first half by the Vikings was a season high. Minnesota also allowed 326 total yards to New Orleans in the first 30 minutes.
The Vikings entered the game ranked 23rd in the league with 378.0 yards allowed per game.