Yet Cousins eschewed an opportunity to gloat after his pass to Rudolph — and a 43-yarder to Adam Thielen at the Saints 2-yard line three plays earlier — helped the Vikings (11-6) advance to play top seed San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs on Saturday. It was Minnesota's first road playoff win since Jan. 9, 2005, when the Vikings beat the rival Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round.
“I’m just happy we won,” Cousins said. “It was a great, great game, two good football teams.”
Saints fans begged to differ after seeing New Orleans' season end in overtime in the Superdome for a second straight year.
The latest disappointing end for the Saints (13-4) came nearly a year after New Orleans lost in the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams in a game marred by missed Rams penalties late in regulation. This time, replays on video boards showed a possible push-off by Rudolph against defensive back P.J. Williams moments before he jumped to snag the winning catch.
NFL president of officiating Al Riveron said the league reviewed numerous replay angles, and while they saw contact by both players, “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said the Vikings “deserved to win.”
Dalvin Cook gained 130 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns after missing the last two regular-season games with a shoulder injury. Cousins finished with 242 yards and one TD passing.
“Being a fourth-round pick and kind of working your way up in the league — now you win a playoff game. Guess what? You look around and you realize there’s more mountains to climb,” Cousins said. “You just keep chasing the next mountain and there will always be people who are going to criticize you — and that’s OK.”
New Orleans trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter but forced overtime with Drew Brees’ 20-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill and Wil Lutz’s 49-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
“They made more plays than we did,” Payton said. “They ran the ball better than we did.”
Hill was the Saints’ leading rusher with 50 yards and Alvin Kamara was held to 21 yards rushing on seven carries.
“Both defenses played well,” Payton added. “Shoot, here you are in overtime and they made a few plays right there at the end that obviously were significant.”
The Vikings now prepare for next weekend’s trip to San Francisco to face a 49ers team that, like the Saints, went 13-3 in the regular season.
The Saints head into the offseason with contract work ahead on key personnel, including Brees, who turns 41 on Jan. 15, and Kamara, who could opt to hold out for an extension as he enters the final season of his rookie deal.