You have to understand, this was over.
The game was done.
Will Lutz and the New Orleans Saints had just kicked the field goal to beat us. Just like Garrett Hartley and the Saints had in 2009. Just like Morten Andersen and the Falcons in 1998.
The Vikings had choked. Again. They were up 17-0 at halftime, and didn’t give up a point until there was 1:39 left in the third quarter. But then it started. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a stupid interception that led to another Saints touchdown, and it was 17-14. The Vikings next drive resulted in a field goal to make the score 20-14. But then, with 2 minutes and 20 seconds left, the Saints Quarterback Drew Brees found running back Alvin Kamara in the end zone. Touchdown. Saints led 21-20.
On the ensuing drive, the Vikings got far enough down the field to kick a field goal and take a two point lead, but they left 90 seconds on the clock. Seasoned Vikings fans knew exactly what was coming. Sure enough, the Saints drove the field and kicked another field goal to take the lead back again. It was 24-23, with 25 seconds on the clock.
We were beaten. We’ve seen this time and time again. We were beaten. The story of the game was the choke. The Vikings gave up a 17-point 3rd quarter lead. It was the biggest choke since the Falcons in the Superbowl last year, and that was, officially, the biggest choke ever. No team gives up a 17-point lead, unless they’re playing against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
I’m still dizzy from all of this.
The Vikings took the ball, moved it a little bit, and then they stalled. They were looking at third and 10 from their own 39 yard line with ten seconds left on the clock. The hope against hope was for Keenum to somehow get the ball to a wide receiver 42 yards downfield, and for the receiver to catch the ball and quickly get out of bounds to stop the clock with a couple seconds still left. That would give kicker Kai Forbath an opportunity to kick a walk off field goal. And, if we’re being honest, there wouldn’t have been a lot of faith in Forbath to make a kick with that much pressure on him. We have a hard time trusting kickers here in Minnesota.
And then it happened. Keenum took the snap, dropped back, stepped up in the pocket and heaved the ball down the field where Stefon Diggs was waiting at the Saints 45 yard line. He leapt into the air, caught the ball, evaded Saints Safety Marcus Williams on the way down, landed, spun, slipped, caught himself, stayed in bounds and ran the 45 yards into the end zone, into history, and into the hearts of every single Vikings fan past, present and future.
It’s the Minneapolis Miracle. The Hail Millie (named for the 100 year old Vikings fan the team had invited to watch the game at US Bank Stadium). Keenum to Diggs. 61 yards. Touchdown.
We don’t get to see this very much in Minnesota. The University of Minnesota Men’s Hockey Team won a couple of National Championships ten or fifteen years ago, and the Minnesota Lynx have won four WNBA Championships in the last seven years. We are fiercely proud of these things.
But the Vikings are different. This is a Vikings town. This state is Purple, man. And our experiences with the team team have made us neurotic (I detailed that history here). This game was over.
It was over.
Until it wasn’t. And then it was over again, but somehow, we had won.
If you were standing outside anywhere in Minnesota, you heard the sound of 5,580,000 voices screaming at once; screaming in shocked catharsis; screaming in the kind of elation local football fans have never really known.
Yes, we know. Our team did not win the Super Bowl tonight. In fact we are well aware of the fact that they must now travel to Philadelphia and beat the Eagles to even have the opportunity to win the Super Bowl.
But, I’m just going to say it: something changed tonight. For the first time in recorded history, the Vikings overcame their own propensity to choke. Fate stepped up and punched the Vikings in the face, and for the first time ever, the Vikings punched back and, baby, they landed a haymaker.
By the way, the Super Bowl will be played in Minneapolis this year. It will be at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. If the Vikings win their next game they will play in the Super Bowl, in their home stadium. That’s never happened before. No other team has ever come even this close to that.
The last major professional men’s championship in Minnesota was when the Twins won the World Series in 1991. That was also a dramatic win, and it took a spectacular performance by the late Twins hero Kirby Puckett to even get the series to Game Seven. Local sports writer Patrick Reusse wrote a column about all of Puckett’s exploits in Game Six before signing off by saying, very simply, “Thanks Puck.”
So let me say this. Vikings fans can hold their heads up tonight. All that mocking we knew was coming from all those Packers and Saints fans in our lives… well it’s suddenly not there anymore. Moreover, we can believe that something very special is afoot. There is magic in the air.
You have to understand, something changed tonight.