The Vikings went the distance in overtime to defeat the Saints 26-20 in the Wild Card round on Sunday in New Orleans.
Minnesota showed it was comfortable as a heavy underdog in earning the first overtime playoff victory in franchise history and the first road win in a postseason game since January 2005. Dalvin Cook proved to be a difference maker in his postseason debut. The running back and receiver Adam Thielen found their strides for an offense that had its full complement of players for the first time in a long time.
Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter pressured Drew Brees from the edge and interior of the line, and the defense created two turnovers by a Saints team that set an NFL record with only eight during the regular season.
Minnesota, the No. 6 seed in the NFC, will visit top-seeded San Francisco at 3:35 p.m. (CT) Saturday in the Divisional round.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Saints in the Wild Card matchup.
Before that, here are three stats that stood out in the Vikings upset of the Saints:
1. Getting to the outside
One of the biggest contrasts between the teams was the production when running backs were able to get the ball to the perimeter.
According to Next Gen Stats, Cook rushed outside of the tackles on 21 of his 28 carries and totaled 65 of his 94 net rushing yards on such runs, which included one of his two touchdowns.
Alexander Mattison added three carries for 20 yards on the perimeter, helping Minnesota total 136 yards on 40 carries.
The Vikings bottled up running backs Alvin Kamara (seven rushes, 21 yards, long of 5) and Latavius Murray (five rushes, 21 yards, long of 8). The duo totaled 32 yards on seven perimeter runs. New Orleans did get a lift from backup QB/Jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill, who rushed twice on the perimeter for 37 yards in route.
2. Passing comparison
Kirk Cousins showed accuracy and leadership during Minnesota's game-winning drive, completing passes to Cook, Stefon Diggs, Thielen and the 4-yard game-winning pass to Kyle Rudolph.
Next Gen Stats shows that Cousins was effective at multiple depths, matching or beating Brees.
Passes 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage: Cousins 2-for-4, 77 yards; Brees 2-for-4, 40 yards, TD, INT
Passes 10-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage: Cousins 4-for-8, 45 yards, TD (Rudolph's catch was 4 yards but was deep in the end zone); Brees 3-for-4, 47 yards
Passes from line of scrimmage to 10 yards beyond: Cousins 9-for-12, 75 yards; Brees 15-for-16, 105 yards
Passes behind the line of scrimmage: Cousins 4-for-7, 45 yards; Brees 6-for-8, 16 yards
The game featured four of Wild Card weekend's most improbable completions.
Next Gen Stats calculated that the winning pass to Rudolph on a fade had a completion probability of 24.9 percent (least likely of all plays this weekend).
Hill's 50-yard pass to Deonte Harris was the second-least likely completion in the league (27.2 percent).
Thielen carded a pair of catches in the top 12. His 43-yarder was the seventh-least likely (31.9 percent), and his 34-yard reception ranked 12th-least likely (43.4).
3. Defensive superlatives
The Vikings defense had a hand in a pair of Wild Card weekend superlatives.
Danielle Hunter's sack of Brees during which he forced a fumble that was recovered by Jalyn Holmes, was recorded in 3.30 seconds, the fastest of any player this weekend.
Everson Griffen got to Brees in 3.79 seconds (fifth fastest), and the duo met at the quarterback in 3.96 seconds on Minnesota's first sack of the game, which was the sixth-fastest sack.
The fastest sack by the Saints was recorded by Cam Jordan in 5.07 seconds, which ranked 15th-fastest overall.
Anthony Harris also was involved on the longest play of the weekend. Harris traveled 79.1 total yards to get his interception and return the ball 30 yards.
Saints rookie Deonte Harris was involved on three of the 10 longest plays. He traveled 75.9 yards during his 54-yard kickoff return (second longest), 66.1 yards on a 10-yard punt return (fourth) and 54.1 yards on his 50-yard reception (10th).