WASHINGTON: Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs on a desperation game-winning 61-yard touchdown pass on Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) final play, giving the Minnesota Vikings a dramatic 29-24 NFL playoff victory over New Orleans.
Minnesota advanced in astonishing fashion to play the Eagles in Philadelphia in next Sunday’s National Conference final. If they win, the Vikings will become the first team to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium.
Jacksonville stunned host Pittsburgh 45-42 in Sunday’s other NFL playoff game, sending the Jaguars to defending champion New England in next Sunday’s American Conference final, but that upset was overshadowed by one of the most shocking finishes in NFL history.
With New Orleans leading 24-23 and only 10 seconds to play, Keenum hurled a pass to the right sideline and Diggs leaped high to grab it.
When Saints defender Marcus Williams missed the tackle, diving past Diggs, the receiver turned and raced unchallenged into the end zone as the final seconds ticked away.
“They count us out all the time. Nobody thinks we could do it,” Diggs said. “Everybody thought it was over. I don’t stop playing until there are all zeroes on the clock.”
Moments after the astounding touchdown play, Keenum could only marvel at the miracle.
“I can’t even explain it,” Keenum said. “We were definitely in a desperation moment. (Diggs) made a heck of a play. That was one of the most special moments of my life.
“I don’t even know what just happened. It’s crazy. I have no words.”
Minnesota jumped ahead 17-0 on Jerick McKinnon’s 14-yard touchdown run, Kai Forbath’s 20-yard field goal and a 1-yard Latavius Murray touchdown run.
Drew Brees answered with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas and a 3-yard touchdown toss to Thomas to pull the Saints within 17-14.
Forbath added a 49-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 20-14 edge with 10:17 to play but the Saints’ George Johnson blocked a later Minnesota punt and four plays later, Brees threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara, Wil Lutz’s conversion kick giving New Orleans a 21-20 lead with 3:01 remaining.
Forbath connected on a 53-yard field goal to put the Vikings back in front but a 43-yard Lutz field goal with 25 seconds remaining put the Saints back in front until the final heartbreaking play.
The Vikings, who boast the NFL’s top-rated defensive unit, reached the conference final for the first time since the 2009 season, when they lost to New Orleans. They haven’t played in a Super Bowl since 1977, when the Vikings lost to Oakland.