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The Minnesota Vikings Kyle Lauletta Color Rush Jersey , after watching their late-third-quarter 17-point lead vanish at the hands of the indefatigable Drew Brees, went back in front of the New Orleans Saints on a field goal with 1:29 left.
Trailing by two with that much time? That was no trouble for Brees, who moved the Saints in position for the responding field goal with 25 seconds remaining.
The problem was they left just enough space for Case Keenum and the Vikings to answer with one of the NFL’s all-time last-play stunners.
Keenum completed his last-ditch heave near the sideline Sunday on the game’s final play to Stefon Diggs, who slithered away from the Saints for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 29-24 victory and a spot in the NFC championship game at Philadelphia.
”I don’t know what the percentage was,” Keenum said, ”but just try to give the guy a chance.”
The play the Vikings ran, believe it or not, is called ”Seven Heaven.” Kyle Rudolph, Jarius Wright and Diggs all ran sideline routes from the right of the formation, with Diggs the deepest with his break coming at about 25 yards.
This wasn’t quite as improbable of a play as Franco Harris on the Immaculate Reception for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 playoffs , which was also in the divisional round, but these Vikings are on some kind of special path.
The Vikings were out of timeouts and nearly out of options when Keenum took the snap with 10 seconds left and dropped back from his 39-yard line. He lofted a throw to Diggs, who jumped in front of Marcus Williams before the Saints rookie whiffed on his awkward attempt to cut underneath Diggs for a tackle.
Nobody was behind him in the secondary Rusney Castillo Jersey , as Diggs knew before he pivoted to keep his balance, keep his feet in bounds and keep running across the goal line.
”I had a pretty good view of it,” Rudolph said. ”I couldn’t believe it. Things just don’t work out that way.”
Particularly for the Vikings, whose previous victory in the playoffs had been after the 2009 season at home against Dallas in the divisional round. They lost in overtime the following week in the NFC championship game that year at New Orleans, one of the many late collapses in team lore that have conditioned Minnesotans to brace for the worst. So while only defensive end Brian Robison is still around from that painful loss to the Saints, this thriller at least served as a leveler of sorts for a fan base accustomed to being on the other side.
”It’s a turning point for everybody,” Diggs said. ”The majority of people doubt us. They don’t think it’s going to happen, especially because of history. People have a way of saying history repeats itself. I guess this is not one of those cases.”
Now the Vikings can become the first team to play in a Super Bowl on their home turf, if they beat the Eagles. Instead of the usual win-or-go-home stakes, they’re in a win-and-go-home situation.
”It would’ve been nice to be home, but I feel like if we take care of business the way we’re supposed to we’ll have another chance to see our fans,” Diggs said.
Here are some other key developments during the game:
Brees will turn 39 on Monday, a celebration that’s sure to be muted so soon after this crushing loss. After finishing 7-9 in four of the previous five seasons Cheap Rashaan Evans Jersey , the Saints were one of the NFL’s biggest breakout stories in 2017 with an energized and revamped defense and the potent running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. But how long will Brees, whose contract is expiring, want to stick around with a Super Bowl ring already in hand?
”I’m more toward the end of my career than I am at the beginning, I know that,” Brees said. ”That’s all I’ll divulge.”
Brees finished 25 for 40 for 294 yards and three touchdowns, all in the final 16:16 of the game, but his performance was tainted a bit by two costly interceptions before halftime. One came on a leaping grab by safety Andrew Sendejo that set up a touchdown drive for the Vikings in the second quarter. The other came off a tip by Everson Griffen at the line that sent the ball fluttering into Anthony Barr’s arms at the Minnesota 10-yard line to thwart the next possession.
Ted Ginn had broken open on a post pattern on the first one, a first-and-10 play from the New Orleans 15, and Brees saw an opportunity.
”I just forced it. There was no reason to do that,” Brees said.
FORBATH FINISHES STRONG
Kai Forbath missed a 49-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the first half, but he was good from the same distance in the fourth quarter and again from 53 yards to put the Vikings up 23-21 with 89 seconds to go. That gave him three makes against the team that cut him right before the 2016 season in favor of Wil Lutz, whose 43-yard kick gave the Saints the lead before the Keenum-to-Diggs stunner.
”I was ready to kick another one,” Forbath said Joe Kelly Jersey , ”but what an incredible way to win.”
WOE FOR WILLIAMS
Williams was sobbing in front of his cubicle in the locker room afterward, his face buried in a folded white towel, before composing himself for a stand-up performance in front of the assembled press.
”I’m going to take it upon myself,” Williams said, ”to make sure nothing like this happens again to me.”
The Tigers knew exactly what hit them – the daunting combination of a homer-friendly park and a free-swinging Reds offense starting to come around.
Scooter Gennett hit a tying two-run homer , and Eugenio Suarez also connected on the next pitch – a hit originally ruled a double but changed to a homer on review – for a 5-3 victory and a two-game sweep on Wednesday.
The Reds moved ahead in the all-time series 13-11, with two games left at Comerica Park starting July 31.
After managing only a pair of singles through the first five innings, the Reds finally got to Michael Fulmer (3-6). Gennett connected with two outs for his 13th homer, tying it 2-2.
”The way we’re playing right now is how we expected to play all year,” Gennett said. ”It’s a lot of fun.”
Fulmer threw Gennett a slider that was headed for the dirt on a 1-2 count, only to see it sail out to right field aided by the wind.
”I thought it was a great pitch,” Fulmer said. ”I’m mad at the results, but I’m not mad at the way I pitched.”
Suarez hit Fulmer’s next pitch to left field Authentic Nyheim Hines Jersey , with the ball landing on the top of the wall and bouncing back into play. The Reds sounded their home run siren and shot off fireworks, but the umpires ruled the ball was in play and stopped Suarez at second base.
After a review of 1 minute, 12 seconds, the hit was ruled a homer – replays indicated the ball skipped off the top of the wall and deflected off a railing behind it.
Adam Duvall added a solo shot in the eighth as the Reds out-homered the Tigers 3-2.
”That’s the way it is here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Tyler Mahle (6-6) overcame a pair of solo homers to remain unbeaten in four June starts. The rookie has allowed a total of four earned runs while going 3-0 in the month. He struck out eight in six innings of his team-high sixth quality start.
”I was more lucky than good today,” Mahle said . ”If I had to give myself a grade today, it would be a `D.”’
Raisel Iglesias gave up a hit in the ninth while earning his 11th save in 13 chances.
The Reds improved to 6-1 in interleague games. They’ve won five straight against the AL, tying their best all-time mark. The Tigers fell to 1-7.
SWING AND A MISS
Fulmer has little hitting experience in the majors, and it hurt the Tigers in the sixth. With runners on second and third and two outs, the Reds intentionally walked Dixon Machado to bring up Fulmer. He struck out on three pitches, the last one a high 94 mph fastball. Fulmer is 0 for 9 with six strikeouts for his career.
Gardenhire said that’s the big advantage for the NL, where pitchers take batting practice regularly.
”There’s your unfair advantage,” he said.
Left-hander Blaine Hardy relieved in the seventh and gave up a pair of hits and a walk. Hardy has been a fill-in starter for the Tigers’ depleted rotation and pitched into the sixth inning Sunday for a 3-1 win over the White Sox.
Joey Votto received his 2017 Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s Athlete of the Year Youth Derrius Guice Jersey , the second time he’s won it. Ferguson Jenkins and Larry Walker are the other baseball players to win it.
Tigers: Right-handed reliever Drew VerHagen was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a broken nose suffered Tuesday night when he was hit by a thrown ball while covering first base. Right-handed reliever Johnny Barbato was called up from Triple-A Toledo. He gave up Duvall’s homer in the eighth.
Reds: Manager Jim Riggleman and the training staff are developing a rehab plan for starter Homer Bailey, who has been sidelined since June 2 with a sore right knee. He’s 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA.
Tigers: After a day off, the Tigers start a weekend series in Cleveland, where they’ve lost 20 of their past 26 games, including their past seven. Mike Fiers (5-3) is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts at Progressive Field.
Reds: Matt Harvey (1-5) makes his eighth start for the Reds, who open a four-game series against the Cubs at Great American Ball Park. Harvey has lost his past three decisions for the Reds, who got him from the Mets in a trade for catcher Devin Mesoraco on May 8.