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Vikings Defense Contains Brees, but No 'Moral Victories' in Tough Loss to Saints

MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings defense held Drew Brees to his second-lowest passing yardage total in 13 seasons with the Saints.

But at the end of the day, that's not the stat that the team will focus on.

"I mean, that's what we expect out of ourselves. There's no moral victories out here," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said after the game. "We take the good and try to continue doing that."

Brees finished 18-of-23 passing for just 120 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was 84.8.

Minnesota's defensive performance was admirable, but a **couple of critical turnovers** on offense swung the momentum in New Orleans' favor, and the Vikings fell 30-20 in front of their home crowd Sunday night.

"Yeah, you can't hurt yourself," Smith said of the turnovers. "But that's not, it's a team game, no matter what. We stick together and ride it out, move forward. It's a long season. Don't dwell on it too long."

Brees entered the game with zero interceptions in 2018, but Smith picked off the quarterback at the 3:07 mark of the second quarter.

On second-and-10 from the Vikings 45, Brees dropped back and was faced with pressure by Minnesota's defensive line, primarily from Stephen Weatherly, who reached him first. Brees attempted to force a pass to Michael Thomas but found a Purple jersey instead.

Smith said he just read and reacted.

"I think we got some good pressure on him, forced a hot throw and just going up and getting the ball," Smith said.

Weatherly was asked about the play postgame and responded that he was "just doing my job."

"The tackle blocked down, we were in a front where we knew they were going to potentially slide," Weatherly explained. "Came off the ball, ran right for the upfield shoulder, I saw [Brees'] arm coming up, I threw my arm up and tried to hit him, affect him. It looked like he wasn't able to follow through and definitely wasn't able to step through the throw.

"Hit him, [I was] on the ground, the crowd starts cheering, and I look up and Harrison has the ball," Weatherly said. "So all in all, I'm happy that I was able to affect that. I think that was his first pick of the season – definitely something that helps grow momentum in the game at that point."

The energy unfortunately was short-lived. The Vikings offense drove down the field in hopes of capitalizing on the possession change, but a fumble by Adam Thielen was recovered by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore and returned 54 yards to the Minnesota 33.

"That just goes to show, this game that we play, it's all about momentum. And if you have it, you can definitely ride it moving forward," Weatherly said. "We definitely had it, and then with that fumble and return … we lost it just that fast. Then, it was up to the defense to go out and gain it back some way, somehow. It was tough losing that momentum."

The Vikings entered halftime down 17-13, but the team just couldn't get things rolling again in the second half.

Smith acknowledged that it's difficult to come from behind against a Brees-led Saints squad.

"They're a good football team," Smith said. "They have one of the greats back there leading them. We just have to keep the pressure there."

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Saints under the lights for Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he thought the defense's performance against Brees was "pretty good" for the most part.

"Took away their big plays. They're a big-time, shot-play team, and we took those away," Zimmer said. "I thought some of these young guys that came in there played well."

The Vikings limited the Saints to four conversions on nine third-down attempts and allowed just 270 net yards. The team's third loss of the season, however, is the number that the locker room was focused on.

"You can win every other statistical category in the game, but if you lose the turnover battle, there's a high chance you're going to lose the game," Weatherly said. "So that's definitely something we have to work on as a team. Defense creating more turnovers and offense eliminating turnovers."