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Monday Morning Mailbag: Playing Keepaway, Unsung Heroes & Pyrotechnical Question

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity. We will also do a special playoff edition this Friday in advance of Minnesota's game at San Francisco in the Divisional round.

The one thing I wanted to do was keep Drew Brees on the bench. We were on offense 10 more minutes than the Saints (37-27). That is our recipe for success. We have a good team that wants a Super Bowl victory badly. We will take it one game at a time and fight to the end.

— Gerald G.

It would be hard to understate the importance of keeping the ball away from Drew Brees because he can be so lethal. He's the NFL's all-time leader in passing touchdowns and yards.

Minnesota's edge in time of possession was helped by the fact that the Vikings won the turnover margin (2-1) against a team that set an NFL record in 2019 for fewest turnovers in a season (eight total giveaways) and the coin toss to start overtime.

The offense's ability to march down the field 75 yards and finish the final possession with a touchdown was the best game of keepaway.

So why not get [Stefon] Diggs more involved because it seems since Adam [Thielen] came back, he's not getting his touches. He was a beast when Adam was down and under double coverage.

Great win.

— Toby S.

Coverage by an opponent sometimes shapes the approach that an offense has to take. If an opponent puts more resources toward discouraging passes going to one receiver, then an offense needs someone else to step up.

The good news for the Vikings is they have one of the best tandems at receiver.

Thielen was able to beat Patrick Robinson on the 43-yard pass from Kirk Cousins that set up the game-winner. Robinson was in for starter Marshon Lattimore, and Thielen was able to create separation. The play also had an option to Diggs and another one built into it.

Not taking anything away from either player, but Diggs' best game of the season was in Week 6 prior to Thielen's injury. He torched the Eagles for a season-best 167 yards and three touchdowns.

Diggs only had three targets Sunday, but one of his two catches was critically important. He gained 10 on a third-and-1 by convincingly winning a 1-on-1 matchup against Janoris Jenkins.

Cousins and others noted the significance of that catch by Diggs after the game.

If other teams put more resources toward Thielen or Dalvin Cook, then I'm sure Diggs will be ready to make them pay.

Plenty of kudos to throw around, but for starters, let's acknowledge Kirk Cousins was better today than the All-Time Significant Passing Stats leader. Adam Thielen was more productive than the 2019-voted All-Pro WR on the other sideline. Dalvin Cook was the best RB on the field. AND Dan Bailey was the better kicker. Today. There's more. But let's start there.

— Jeff in Sacramento

As Jeff mentions, Sunday's win involved the Vikings matching or exceeding the level of play in several phases of the game.

Cousins came up clutch during the final drive. He protected the ball throughout the game and made good decisions, not trying to force something that wasn't there. He also correctly spotted the Cover 0 blitz from the Saints on the final play and threw a beauty of a fade for Kyle Rudolph to high-point.

Thielen definitely returned to his pre-injury form. He got opportunities and made the most of them aside from the early fumble. It was an impressive bounce back. Saints WR Michael Thomas had a solid game (seven catches for 70 yards on eight targets), but credit should also go to a short-handed secondary, the players who executed the plan and the coaches who drew up a way to mitigate Thomas' wrath.

Xavier Rhodes' pass breakup a play after hurting his left shoulder while making a tackle of Alvin Kamara is one I'm still replaying in my head.

Cook was dynamic and looked like he had rejuvenated legs.

Bailey has extended a fantastic regular season into the postseason.

Great win. … Maybe Cousins will relax with playoff win under his belt for next week against 49ers. ... We can and will beat them if we stay within ourselves. ... Keys to victory are many but O-line stepped up as did our maligned secondary, loved the play made by [Andrew] Sendejo, game changer, as was [Anthony] Harris and an amazing catch by [Thielen] to seal the deal. ... Cook ran hard and seems healthy, though not sure why they ran left most of the time when their success was to the right.

SKOL and Happy New Year

— Nicholas Balkou

Cousins has now started two career playoff games and showed that the moment wasn't too big for him and the Vikings. That overtime drive was next-level in multiple ways, and you really have to give the offensive line a good bit of credit for playing so well in such a hostile environment.

Sendejo didn't blink at his tasks and came up with a great pass breakup while covering Tre'Quan Smith that was quickly followed by Anthony Harris' interception of Brees.

I'm sure that Vikings coaches had a reason for direction of runs, but they'll probably prefer to keep that within the game plan.

I watched the replay several times on NFL Rewind at the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter. I know that the Cook fumble was reversed, preventing a Saints touchdown. But if it was not? Would there have been a penalty for Teddy Bridgewater running onto the field without his helmet on before the play was over? How could it have affected the play, or for that matter the game?

— Kim Heffern, Milwaukee metro area

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when there was a clear and obvious view of Cook's knee hitting the turf before the ball came out. I won't pretend to be an NFL rules guru, but the following language is from the NFL Ops manual regarding celebrations….

Beginning in 2019, only players in uniform may enter the field to celebrate. If anyone other than a player in uniform enters the field, it is a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct — loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down.

Since Bridgewater was in uniform except for the hat, then I think he would have been OK under that rule to run down after the play concluded. The interesting component is that he didn't wait until the play was over and he was well onto the playing surface, which might kick enforcement to this rule regarding illegal substitutions:

If a substitute enters the field of play or the end zone while the ball is in play, it is an illegal substitution. If an illegal substitute interferes with the play, it may be a palpably unfair act (see12-3-4).

It appeared that the Saints were able to use pyrotechnics for their teams' entrance onto the field in Sunday's game. Has the ban been lifted?

— Jan in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Vikings fans (and employees) definitely missed the fire from the dragon on the mast of the longship that players run through to take the field. The leaguewide ban went into effect this season and remains in place. Folks that were in New Orleans saw CO2 "smoke" but no pyrotechnics. I checked with colleagues that are better experts than I, and the belief is that a quick shot shown during the broadcast appeared to be pyro but was a lighting effect on the CO2.