Stefon Diggs raced 61 yards on the final play of the game to lift the Minnesota Vikings to a 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints in Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams, who had an earlier interception, lowered his head and tried to deliver a big hit on Diggs, who leapt to catch the pass from Case Keenum. Williams missed and instead hit cornerback Ken Crawley, leaving Diggs free to score untouched.
"This game was over, but I don't stop playing until the clock reaches zero," Diggs, who finished with six catches for 137 yards, told Fox Sports.
Minnesota (14-3) secured a spot in next Sunday's NFC championship game against the Eagles (14-3) in Philadelphia.
Minnesota's defense was dominant in the first half, holding the Saints (12-6) without a third-down conversion on four chances. The Saints finished two of nine as the Vikings built a 17-0 half-time lead as the Saints were shut out in the first half of a game for the first time since September 28, 2014.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who set an NFL record by completing 72 per cent of his passes, went 25 of 40 for 294 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked twice times by an aggressive Vikings defense, including a blitz from safety Harrison Smith.
KEENUM PLAYING AT A CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL
The Vikings quarterback finished 25 of 40 for 318 yards with a touchdown and interception. He was also nine of 12 on third down to help keep drives alive and the Saints offense on the sideline. Keenum was superb during the regular season, throwing for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was not even supposed to be the starter, but took over for Sam Bradford in week two and the Vikings never skipped a beat.
Keenum was in the MVP conversation late in the season and showed why on Sunday.
INJURIES HURT THE VIKINGS' DEFENSE
The Saints' offense found some success in the second half and a trio of injuries to key Vikings players were a factor. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen was lost in the first half with a knee injury, but the bigger injuries occurred in the second half.
Starting safety Andrew Sendejo, who had Minnesota's first interception, was knocked out of the game with a concussion after Thomas delivered a vicious blow that was initially penalized before the flag was picked up.
Starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes was then injured, though he later returned, and the Saints scored two plays later on the three-yard pass from Brees to Thomas.
VIKINGS WILL PLAY SUPER BOWL
The Eagles have a good defense. The Vikings have a great defense and, against Philadelphia's struggling offense, Minnesota's defense will lead the team to their first Super Bowl since 1976. The Vikings have appeared in four Super Bowls, but lost them all. A win over the Eagles will have the Vikings back in the title game, and in their own stadium.
The Vikings are back in the NFC championship game for the first time since 2009, when they lost to the Saints. After avenging that postseason loss to the Saints, the Vikings now have a chance to beat the Eagles in the postseason for the first time ever. The Eagles have won all three postseason meetings against the Vikings, though the teams have not met in the playoffs since 2008.