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Vikings Loss to Saints Ends Playoff Hopes

The Vikings playoff hopes officially ended Friday in New Orleans with a 52-33 loss to the Saints.

Playing shorthanded on defense, Minnesota allowed its most points to an opponent since 56 by the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 6, 1963 and a franchise-worst 583 net yards.

Saints running back Alvin Kamara tied a record with six rushing touchdowns as part of a career-high 155-yard performance. His first score — a cruise-control 40-yarder — gave New Orleans a 7-0 lead at the end of its first possession.

The Vikings answered with a crisp touchdown that ended with a 15-yard run by Dalvin Cook, but the Saints followed with another touchdown drive ended with a 1-yard run by Kamara, forced a punt and followed with a field goal for a 17-7 lead with 14:12 left in the first half.

Minnesota responded with another touchdown drive, but then the Saints countered with Kamara's third score of the game, a 5-yard run with less than a minute left in the first half. 

New Orleans totaled 264 net rushing yards, and Drew Brees completed 19 of 26 passes for 311 yards. He was intercepted twice and finished with a passer rating of 80.8.

Cook totaled 73 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 27 of 41 passes for 291 yards with three touchdowns. His passer rating was 110.9.

Adam Thielen led Minnesota with 97 yards and a score on eight receptions. Louisiana natives Justin Jefferson (six catches for 85 yards) and Irv Smith, Jr. (six receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns) helped the Vikings total 364 net yards.

Scoring Summary

Q1, 12:11 remaining

Saints 7, Vikings 0

Alvin Kamara runs for 40 yards (Wil Lutz kicks PAT) [6 plays, 75 yards, 2:49 time of possession]

Gashed then gas: Kamara opened the game with an 11-yard rush, Latavius Murray had a short gain on second-and-1 and Emmanuel Sanders added a 12-yard run on a jet sweep before Kamara found ample running room, hit the gas and shifted to cruise control for the easy score. 

Q1, 8:46 remaining

Saints 7, Vikings 7

Dalvin Cook rush for 15 yards (Dan Bailey kicks PAT) [8 plays, 75 yards, 3:25 time of possession]

Hot start: Minnesota opened with gains of 16 and 11 on passes to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, respectively, before Cook followed with his first of two 15-yard runs on the drive.

Q1, 5:10 remaining

Saints 14, Vikings 7

Kamara runs for 1 yard (Lutz kicks PAT) [ 7 plays, 66 yards, 3:36 time of possession]

Woes on first downs: The Vikings allowed an 11-yard run by Kamara to start the drive, a 9-yard completion to the running back on the next play, a 19-yard completion to Jared Cook on another first down and a 6-yard run by Kamara a play. A pass interference penalty on Chris Jones in the end zone on first-and-goal, spotted the ball at the 1 for Kamara's run. That's 46 yards, a 5-yard penalty and a touchdown on first downs during one possession.

Q2, 14:12 remaining

Saints 17, Vikings 7

Lutz kicks a 30-yard field goal [10 plays, 84 yards, 4:36 time of possession]

First third down: The Saints didn't face their first third down of the game until early in the second quarter. On third-and-6, linebacker Eric Wilson made a diving pass breakup on a throw intended for Kamara.

Q2, 10:14 remaining

Saints 17, Vikings 14

Mike Boone rushes for 4 yards (Bailey kicks PAT) [8 plays, 75 yards, 3:58 time of possession]

Throwing for firsts: The Vikings got gains of 19, 13 and 25 on the three passes attempted during the drive, with Thielen, Bisi Johnson and Jefferson reeling in passes from Kirk Cousins.

Q2, 0:38 remaining

Saints 24, Vikings 14

Kamara rushes for 5 yards (Lutz kicks PAT) [7 plays, 46 yards, 2:37 time of possession]

Brees bounces back: One possession after Drew Brees was intercepted by Harrison Hand on the rookie corner's first career pick, an underthrown pass by the Saints QB was nearly nabbed by Wilson. New Orleans receiver Marquez Callaway prevented the turnover, and Brees capitalized with three consecutive completions for 31 yards to set up the score.

Q2, 9:41 remaining

Saints 24, Vikings 20

Irv Smith, Jr., catches a 2-yard pass from Cousins (Bailey misses PAT wide left) [3 plays, 18 yards, 1:12 time of possession]

Points off turnover: Minnesota began with a short field after an interception by Hardy Nickerson and handed off to Cook for gains of 5 and 11 to set up the score.

Q2, 4:38 remaining

Saints 31, Vikings 20

Kamara rushes for 6 yards (Lutz kicks PAT) [10 plays, 74 yards, 5:03 time of possession]

Key conversions: The Saints picked up a third-and-5 with a 9-yard pass to former Viking Latavius Murray to avoid a three-and-punt that was one of Minnesota's best chances to get off the field. New Orleans then ran with Taysom Hill at quarterback on third-and-2 for a gain of 1 and fourth-and-inches to gain 2.

Q3, 0:22 remaining

Saints 31, Vikings 27

Smith catches a 4-yard pass from Cousins (Bailey kicks PAT) [9 plays, 75 yards, 4:16 time of possession]

Drive extender: Smith converted a third-and-6 with a reception for 6, and Minnesota received new sets of downs after a roughing the passer penalty that was followed by a pass interference penalty.

Q4, 12:01 remaining

Saints 38, Vikings 27

Kamara rushes for 7 yards (Lutz kicks PAT) [7 plays, 67 yards, 3:21 time of possession]

Who else? The 2017 third-round pick became the seventh player with five rushing touchdowns in one game. He was the first do so since Clinton Portis in 2003.

Q4, 4:00 remaining

Saints 45, Vikings 27

Hill rushes for 1 yard (Lutz kicks PAT) [10 plays, 58 yards, 6:22 time of possession]

QB keeper: Rather than have Kamara go for a sixth rushing score, the Saints used Hill at quarterback, and he powered his way in on third-and-goal from the 1.

Q4, 2:10 remaining

Saints 45, Vikings 33

Thielen catches a 1-yard pass from Cousins (conversion pass fails) [9 plays, 75 yards, 1:50 time of possession]

Extending his best: Thielen barely got the ball inside the pylon on fourth-and-goal for his 14th touchdown of the season.

Q4, 1:50 remaining

Saints 52, Vikings 33

Kamara rushes for 3 yards (Lutz kicks PAT) [3 plays, 48 yards, 0:20 time of possession]

Record tied: Kamara tied the NFL record with his sixth rushing touchdown, equaling a feat by Minnesota native Ernie Nevers on Nov. 28, 1929. The Saints gained 41 yards on the drive with a pass to tight end Adam Trautman.

Game/NFL Notes

This was the 22nd Christmas Day game in NFL history, the fourth involving the Vikings and first in which the Saints played.

Minnesota fell to 1-3 on the holiday.

The most recent NFL games on Christmas involved a doubleheader in Week 16 of the 2017 NFL season, and the last time that a game was held on a Friday occurred on Christmas Day in 2009.

This marked the first season in NFL history (101 total) in which at least one game was played on every day of the week. This was caused when games earlier this season were rescheduled to Tuesday and Wednesday because of COVID-19. According to NFL Media Research, the NFL had games on six days of the week in 1927 (all but Monday), 1938 (all but Tuesday) and 1948 (all but Tuesday).