MINNEAPOLIS — Momentum — and the lead — flung completely to the Saints in a three-play sequence late in the first half, helping New Orleans leave U.S. Bank Stadium with a 30-20 victory on Sunday.
The Vikings had converted third-and-6 and third-and-10 to get the ball to the Saints 18-yard line with just over a minute to go.
Kirk Cousins completed a short pass to Adam Thielen just as he had four times before, but on this one, the sure-handed receiver fumbled after a 4-yard gain.
Marshon Lattimore scooped the ball and returned it 53 yards to the Minnesota 33 before he was dragged down by Laquon Treadwell
After the play concluded, Treadwell threw his helmet and was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Saints needed just two plays to reach the end zone and take a 17-13 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
Minnesota rushed one time for 7 yards and headed for the locker room.
Instead of 16-10 or best-case-scenario 20-10 with juice to start the second half, the four-point deficit zapped the team and crowd an octave or two.
Things went from bad to worse in the third quarter.
Minnesota's opening possession ended with an incompletion to Treadwell on a fourth-and-1 play from the Vikings 45.
New Orleans (6-1) took nine plays and more than four minutes of clock to drive 21 yards and kick a 42-yard field goal by Wil Lutz for a 20-13 lead with 8:19 remaining.
Cousins was intercepted by P.J. Williams two minutes later, and Williams returned the ball 45 yards for a touchdown and 27-13 lead.
New Orleans enjoyed the driver's seat the rest of the way, adding another 42-yard field goal for a 30-13 lead with 9:35 remaining.
Minnesota (4-3-1) scored a touchdown on a 1-yard pass to Thielen, but the drive took more than half the remaining time.
Everson Griffen returned to action for the first time since Week 2 at Green Bay. Griffen did not start, but he entered the game on the first third down. Stephen Weatherly and Danielle Hunter opened at defensive end.
Hunter had his consecutive games streak with a sack snapped at seven. He tackled Taysom Hill, who was in at quarterback late, but the play was a designed run.
Thielen finished with 103 yards on seven receptions and the touchdown, tying Calvin Johnson for the most consecutive games with 100 yards receiving in NFL history (eight).
Stefon Diggs led Minnesota with 119 yards on 10 catches. He caught Minnesota's first touchdown of the night.
Cousins finished 31-of-41 passing with 359 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 107.7. He was sacked four times.
The Vikings outgained the Saints 242 to 152 and kept the ball for 17:04 in the first half.
Brees was 10-of-13 passing for 64 yards with a touchdown and interception for a rating of 80.3. Taysom Hill had a 44-yard completion on a pass to Michael Thomas during New Orleans' opening drive.
Cousins was 15-of-19 passing for 189 yards with a touchdown and passer rating of 125.7. Thielen had five catches for 75 yards, and Diggs had four receptions for 54 yards in the first half.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Saints under the lights for Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Q1, 10:33 remaining
Saints 7, Vikings 0
Alvin Kamara catches a 3-yard pass from Drew Brees (Wil Lutz PAT) [8 plays, 81 yards, 4:27 time of possession]
Turning to trickery: The Saints did the brunt of their damage with Taysom Hill at QB. Hill connected with Michael Thomas for a gain of 44 on a second-and-9 play (Brees only had 31 yards in the first quarter). Hill also ran a QB keeper at the goal line with Brees and former Viking Teddy Bridgewater lined up as wide receivers. That play went for no gain, but Brees delivered a shovel pass to Kamara on the following play.
Q1, 3:16 remaining
Saints 7, Vikings 7
Stefon Diggs catches a 1-yard pass from Kirk Cousins (Dan Bailey PAT) [13 plays, 91 yards, 7:17]
Clutch catches: Adam Thielen reached over the head of P.J. Williams for a gain of 14 on a third-and-5 play. Diggs made an incredible adjustment on the football for a gain of 31 to move the ball to the 1. It took four more plays, but the Vikings were awarded for their aggressiveness.
Q2, 11:57 remaining
Vikings 13, Saints 7
Latavius Murray rushes for a 1-yard touchdown (PAT no good) [7 plays, 80 yards, 4:05]
Trickery too: After establishing the run, the Vikings executed a "flea flicker" with Murray taking a handoff and running a couple of steps up the middle before turning and pitching it back to Cousins. The quarterback then hit Thielen for a gain of 28.
Q2, 7:27 remaining
Vikings 13, Saints 10
Lutz kicks a 52-yard field goal [8 plays, 33 yards, 4:30]
First incompletion: A drop by Kamara on a third-and-3 resulted in the first Saints incompletion of the night and prompted the Lutz field goal.
Q2, :30 remaining
Saints 17, Vikings 13
Kamara rushes for a 1-yard touchdown (Lutz PAT) [2 plays, 18 yards, :27]
Momentum swing: Marshon Lattimore's 53-yard return of a fumble by Adam Thielen was followed with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Laquon Treadwell and moved the ball all the way to the Minnesota 18. Kamara had a 17-yard reception before his quick plunge.
Q3, 8:19 remaining
Saints 20, Vikings 13
Lutz kicks a 42-yard field goal [9 plays, 21 yards, 8:19]
Intentional grounding: New Orleans took over at the Minnesota 45 after the Vikings were unsuccessful on a fourth-and-1 and drove all the way to the 9, but Danielle Hunter forced Brees into an intentional grounding penalty on a third-and-goal from the 10.
Q3, 5:58 remaining
Saints 27, Vikings 13
P.J. Williams returns an interception 45 yards for a touchdown (Lutz PAT)
In stride: Williams continued crossing on a pass that Cousins intended for Diggs.
Q4, 9:35 remaining
Saints 30, Vikings 13
Lutz kicks a 42-yard field goal [15 plays, 60 yards, 8:15]
Q4, 4:26 remaining
Saints 30, Vikings 20
Thielen catches a 1-yard touchdown (Bailey PAT) [13 plays, 75 yards, 5:09]