Drew Brees is one of the best QBs in the NFL, and the Vikings saw the reasons why first-hand on Sunday at Mall of America Field. Sitting atop the NFC South standings and still in the hunt for the NFC’s #2 playoff seed, the Saints put together a 42-20 victory over the Vikings behind a 412-yard, 5-TD performance from Brees.
The game was not lopsided from the beginning, however, because the Vikings came out looking ready to give the Saints all they could handle. New Orleans won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, but just 3 plays into the drive the Vikings recovered a fumble and were already in scoring range. In what would become a theme of the game for the Vikings, though, the offense couldn’t muster any production and Ryan Longwell came on to salvage a score with a 44-yard FG.
The teams exchanged punts later in the 1st quarter, but on his 3rd trip to the field, Brees started putting the pieces together. He led the Saints on a 10-play, 84-yard scoring drive to take a 7-3 on a 5-yard scoring pass to WR Lance Moore. The Vikings hung tough in the 1st half – Longwell hit a 49-yard FG in the 2nd quarter and Christian Ponder found Toby Gerhart for a 10-yard score later in the quarter – and at halftime the Saints held a 21-13 lead.
Even so, Brees was already 20 of 24 for 247 yards and 3 TDs, and it was apparent that he and the Saints offense were in great position to take advantage of an injury-ravaged Vikings secondary. And it didn’t take long for that negative outcome to unfold, as Brees needed just 4 plays on the Saints first drive of the 3rd quarter to toss his 4th TD of the game, this one to backup TE John Gilmore.
The Vikings offense just couldn’t respond, and after going 3-and-out the Vikings watched Brees and Co. score another TD on a 3-play, 53-yard drive. The TD was a 47-yard pass to Moore, which was the 5th TD pass of the day for Brees. At that point the score was 35-13 in favor of the Saints and the situation looked dire for the Vikings.
There was no improbable comeback in the cards for the Vikings this week. The Vikings offense had only 3 of their 12 drives go over 6 plays, and for the game the Vikings netted just 207 yards and 12 first downs. The Saints, by contrast, totaled 573 yards, were 8 of 11 on 3rd down and picked up 36 first downs. Brees found 9 different targets in the passing game and spread his 5 TD passes out to 4 different receivers. This was Brees line in the post-game box score: 32 of 40 for 412 yards, with 5 TDs and no INTs for a passer rating of 149.2.
New Orleans was also efficient on the ground, rushing for 161 yards on 38 carries (4.2 yards per rush).
The Vikings scored a late TD – another Ponder-to-Gerhart connection – to push their score to 20 points, but a bevy of mistakes by several parts of the offense led to an unproductive day overall. In his return to action from an ankle injury that cost him 3 games, Peterson ran for 60 yards on 10 carries, including a 39-yard dash. Gerhart led the club in receiving with 4 receptions for 46 yards, while Percy Harvin was held in check by the Saints defense (3 receptions, 8 yards).
LBs E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway led the club in tackles, with 11 and 10, respectively. No one was able to sack Drew Brees and in amazing fashion, the play-by-play post-game stats show that the Vikings had just one tackle for loss (E.J. Henderson recorded it).
The loss drops the Vikings to 2-12 on the season, and now they’ll prepare on a short week for a road game against the Washington Redskins on Christmas Eve.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, E.J. Henderson, Toby Gerhart
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