You would think that after holding Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to 32 yards on 21 carries, the New Orleans Saints’ offense would have put the game in the bag. After all, they had won both games they had played at home this season, Brees put up another 300+ yard game, Reggie Bush scored two touchdowns on punt returns (with almost a third) and the defense played hard and aggressive.
The inevitability of a Saints win was in the air when RB Pierre Thomas returned the opening kickoff 56 yards. WR Devery Henderson scored the first touchdown for the Saints on a 17 yard catch in the end zone, capping an 8-play possession that took up almost the first four minutes of the first quarter. Henderson got 52 yards on his second catch and finished the day with 4 receptions for 104 yards.
The defense held Minnesota to only 6 rushing yards on their first possession and forced them to punt from the 36. Peterson had only 17 rushing yards in the first half.
The Saints marched down again on their second drive and looked like they would score another three points, on the verge of putting the Vikings away.
But nobody told Vikings’ CB Antoine Winfield. His block of a field goal attempt and return for a touchdown was the first for Minnesota in 48 years. And just like that, the score was tied.
Saints K Gramatica was able to hit from 35 yards on New Orleans’ next possession but an onside kick did not work out the Saints’ way, giving the Vikings the ball on the Saints’ 40.
Vikings K Ryan Longwell had no difficulty hitting from 53 yards to tie the game at 10.
Then the trouble started: turnovers and penalties.
As the second quarter began, Minnesota’s Winfield hit QB Drew Brees, forcing a fumble that Winfield recovered. Vikings QB Gus Ferrotte handed the ball to RB Chester Taylor at the Saints’ 9, who then threw a touchdown to TE Visanthe Shiancoe giving the Vikings their first lead of the night.
Brees had two fumbles in the first half. So did Reggie Bush, including one caused while Vikings LB Chad Greenway was grabbing his facemask. Brees also threw an interception in the red zone which he had none done all season. For the night, the Saints had five fumbles (losing three) and two interceptions.
It seemed like if the Saints weren’t coughing up the ball, they were committing penalties. They had 8 for 50 yards in the first half, a total of 11 for 102 yards in the game, compared to the Vikings’ total of 7 for 60 yards.
At halftime, the Saints had 251 total yards to the Vikings 120 and had held the ball for almost twice as long. New Orleans also led in penalties and turnovers leaving a score of Minnesota 20 to New Orleans 10. Brees had thrown for 220 yards in the first half.
The Superdome came alive again with about two minutes left in the third quarter when Reggie Bush returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown, reducing the score deficit to only three. When Minnesota punted the next time, it looked like Bush would do it again until he slipped with no one around him after already getting 29 yards. But Minnesota didn’t appear to learn that maybe they should kick it to someone else. After Gramatica seemingly redeemed himself with a 53-yard field goal to tie the game, Bush returned another punt 64 yards for his second touchdown and giving the Saints the lead again.
But a 33-yard pass to Bernard Berrian tied the game again. When Minnesota scored a 30-yard field goal with less than two minutes left, you could sense that there was still a chance. However, New Orleans decided to go for it, throwing a long bomb to Devery Henderson into multiple coverage, and Brees was intercepted for the second time.
Maybe the Saints should have kept K Taylor Mehlhaff or at least given Gramatica some heat. For the second time this season, Martin Gramatica has missed two field goal attempts, either one of which would have tied the game: the first was a 47-yard attempt that was blocked and the second was from 46 yards late in the game.
New Orleans has a chance to redeem itself when it plays Oakland next week. The Vikings are home for Detroit.