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Vikings Offense Scores 33, Laments Missed 3rd Downs

Most weeks of the season, the 33 points and 364 yards the Vikings offense posted Friday might have been enough to get a win.

But it wasn't the case in New Orleans, not with the Saints own offense humming along at near-record pace.

The Vikings saw their playoff hopes end in Week 16 with the loss, and the offense couldn't do much but watch.

"I mean, honestly, we just try to stay positive in any aspect. It does suck, but as an offense, we can't control that," said Vikings tight end Irv Smith, Jr. "We go out there and do our thing and try to put points up on the board and the defense goes out there and tries to stop their offense.

"It's something that we really can't control, but I just try to stay positive and keep those guys encouraged," he added. "Just go out there and do our job."

Said quarterback Kirk Cousins: "Part of the deal. It's part of the game we play. If anything, it gave us the opportunity to keep our foot on the gas pedal and try to keep up with them."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the offense wasn't the problem as Minnesota dropped to 6-9.

"I thought offensively we played well, moved the ball, ran the ball, did a nice job in protection for the most part," Zimmer said.

Smith provided one of the bright spots for the Vikings with six catches for 53 yards … and a pair of touchdowns in his hometown.

The second-year tight end caught short scores (from 2 and 4 yards out) in the third quarter as the Vikings tried to mount a comeback.

Smith said he didn't take much solace in the scores given the loss eliminated the Vikings from postseason contention.

"I'm a competitor. I love to win," Smith said. "At the end of day, obviously touchdowns are great but the goal and objective of the game is to win.

"We fell short of that today," Smith added, "but it felt good to get in the end zone, for sure."

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Saints on Christmas Day during Week 16.

Cousins also played fairly well, completing 24 of his 41 pass attempts for 291 yards with three scores and no interceptions. He had a passer rating of 110.9. The quarterback also set a single-season career high with 32 touchdown passes.

Adam Thielen had a touchdown catch and now has 15 on the season, which is the fifth-most in franchise history.

Justin Jefferson hauled in six catches for 85 yards, bringing his season total to 1,267. If he gets 47 yards in the season finale, he'll surpass Randy Moss' rookie record of 1,313 yards.

Dalvin Cook also played well — with 73 yards and a score on 15 rushes — as he is now just the third running back in team history with a 1,500-yard season. Mike Boone also found the end zone for the first time this season.

But it wasn't a perfect outing, as the Vikings struggled when they got to third downs, as Minnesota converted just three of nine tries.

And even though the Vikings defense allowed a franchise-worst 583 yards — plus 52 points, the most since 1963 — the unit also had a pair of interceptions.

The first came from Harrison Hand when the Vikings trailed 17-14 in the second quarter. But Minnesota's ensuing drive netted zero yards as the Vikings punted it away. The Vikings wouldn't get any closer than that 3-point deficit.

"We were backed up there, so to be able to get out of that field position so if we did end up punting, the field is flipped as opposed to punting back to midfield at worst-case scenario," Cousins said. "But best-case scenario, you're obviously trying to get points off turnovers.

"It's certainly disappointing anytime you go three and out and not sustain the drive longer," Cousins added.

The Vikings will now close out the 2020 season in Detroit against the Lions.

"It's definitely something that us as a team, we're not happy about. It's something we didn't plan," Smith said about being eliminated from the playoff race. "But our guys, we go to work every day and we put in a lot of effort out there.

"We never doubt the effort that our team brings. As an offense, we go out there and give it our all every play," Smith added. "We're prideful of that, but at the end of the day, we want to win."