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Stats That Stood Out: Vikings-Saints in Week 16

The Vikings depleted defense had a historically bad night against the Saints, allowing Alvin Kamara to tie an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns (Minnesota native Ernie Nevers accomplished the feat in 1929) in a 52-33 loss that eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention.

The 583 net yards by New Orleans are the most by any opponent against Minnesota, and the points allowed are the most since surrendering 56 in 1963.

Minnesota's offense tried to keep pace and put up some solid numbers of its own, but a big milestone reached by Dalvin Cook and two receiving touchdowns by New Orleans native Irv Smith, Jr., weren't enough to offset the 17 plays by the Saints that gained 10 or more yards.

Here are three stats that stood out presented by GEICO:

1. Not keeping up with Kamara

The 11-yard run by Kamara on the first play of the night was a quick sign of things to come. Just five plays later, Kamara rushed for a 40-yard touchdown.

According to Next Gen Stats, Kamara gained 31 more yards than expected on his first touchdown. (Normally we add where that ranks each week, but since Friday's game was the first of Week 16, we'll note that the next-longest plays gained 13 yards above expectations on carries by former Viking Latavius Murray (21 on a play expected to gain 8) and Dalvin Cook (15 on a play expected to gain 2).

The subtext here is that the runs by Kamara and Murray were expected to be so much longer than Cook's play. New Orleans consistently won the line of scrimmage.

Next Gen Stats calculated that 66 of Kamara's career-best 155 yards were above what was expected. He averaged a whopping 2.99 yards over expectation per attempt. (Nick Chubb leads the NFL in that category heading into Week 16 with 1.71 yards over expectation/attempt.   

2. 'Easy Brees-y' in The Big Easy

Although the Vikings intercepted Drew Brees twice in his second game back from chest and lung injuries, the future Hall of Famer had an easy night in The Big Easy.

Brees completed 73.1 percent of his passes, continuing the relative ease that quarterbacks have had against a Minnesota defense that has struggled to pressure passers and cover receiving options.

According to the completion probability stat from Next Gen Stats, the least likely completion of the night — a 23-yarder from Brees to Emmanuel Sanders — still had a likelihood of 45.6 percent.

Brees' 19-yard pass to Taysom Hill was next at 47 percent, and an 11-yard pass to Marquez Callaway had a likelihood of 57.2 percent.

Kirk Cousins' least likely completion of the night was a 14-yard pass to Smith and had a likelihood of 56 percent.

For comparison sake, the league's 20th least likely completion entering Week 16 had a likelihood of 16.9 percent.

3. Short possessions

It's always hard to argue with scoring points, but Minnesota struck quickly on each of its touchdown drives. The longest possession by the Vikings lasted 4:16.

It ended with a 4-yard touchdown from Cousins to Smith to make it a 31-27 game with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter, however, was all New Orleans, as the Saints answered that score in just 3:21 of game time for a 38-27 lead and their defense forced a three-and-put to get the ball back for another score.

That touchdown capped New Orleans' longest possession of the night, which lasted 6:22 and was key in the Saints winning time of possession 11:08 to 3:52 in the fourth quarter.

Again it's tough to say a team scored too quickly, but Minnesota at least needed to make more out of its possessions that didn't end in touchdowns. Seven of 11 total possessions lasted five or fewer plays, and eight lasted less than three minutes.

The most damaging sequence occurred late in the first half after Harrison Hand intercepted Brees at the Minnesota 12-yard line with 5:04 left in the second quarter.

Minnesota netted 0 yards on three snaps and consumed just 1:49 of clock before sending Britton Colquitt out for one of four Vikings punts.

New Orleans got the ball at the Minnesota 46 with 3:15 remaining and expertly drained enough clock on the way to a touchdown and 24-14 lead with just 38 seconds left in the half. The Vikings were unable to respond with a score.