It was an exciting game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints that came down to the kickers. Greg Joseph kicked the Vikings’ go-ahead 47-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds left in the game to take a 28-25 lead. Wil Lutz, who drilled a 60-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, was tasked to do it again from 61 yards out to tie the game on the final play. His kick bounced off the upright as Minnesota survived for the win.
In the end, the Vikings did just enough, winning by the bounce of a ball in the uprights.
The Vikings made a statement early, coming out and scoring a touchdown on their first drive. Quarterback Kirk Cousins found a rhythm with his wide receivers early, particularly Adam Thielen, who got involved from the start, but crucial drops by receivers caused the offense to struggle down the line.
The Saints did not start off great, but their defense finally made something happen as time was expiring in the first quarter, and did so in a big way with a Tyrann Mathieu interception on Cousins.
The Saints were able to capitalize on the pick and marched down the rest of the field, converting their first first downs of the game as well as putting up their first points of the day. Chris Olave’s four-yard reception got the Saints in the end zone.
From there, it was a story of field goals. The Vikings regained the lead after a 28-yard field goal by Joseph with just over a minute left in the half. Minnesota then forced another turnover on the Saints return, but once again could only get a field goal on the fumble.
The Vikings got creative with a fake punt, using punter Ryan Wright’s high school quarterback skills to complete a 13-yard pass to Thielen, but they were only able to get three points from the play.
The Saints got their first lead of the game, thanks to a Taysom Hill touchdown run and a successful two-point conversion. The lead did not last very long, as Justin Jefferson responded with a touchdown of his own, but a missed extra point made it a three-point game.
It looked like this one was going into overtime with a Wil Lutz 60-yard field goal to even it up at 25, but a Vikings field goal and a game-ending miss from Lutz gave Minnesota the win across the pond.
Here are the key takeaways from the thriller in London.
Why the Vikings won
The Vikings came out with a strong start and Cousins connecting with his receivers right away gave them some cushion for when things started to fall a little flat for the offense down the line.
The Vikings had crucial turnovers and solid special teams plays, including a successful fake punt, but gave themselves some added stress by not capitalizing on these plays with touchdowns. Points on the board are important, but the struggles in the red zone is the reason this one was a nail biter when the Vikings could’ve easily ran away with it.
The Vikings defense held the Saints to back-to-back three-and-outs to start the game, setting their offense up for success. Minnesota struggled in the red zone, scoring just two touchdowns in their five trips to the area, but its special teams and defense kept the offense in it. Typically, scoring mostly field goals is not enough to win, but for the Vikings today it was.
Why the Saints lost
The Saints had the total opposite start of the Vikings in the London matchup, with two three-and-outs with quarterback Andy Dalton leading the offense for an injured Jameis Winston. The Saints have the most three-and-outs of any team in the league and with their starting quarterback out and Alvin Kamara as a late scratch, they had more obstacles to overcome.
Penalties were an issue with the Saints, racking up 10 for 105 yards opposed to the Vikings five penalties for 35 yards.
Turnovers were another struggle, and even though the Vikings were scoring just three points off the takeaways, those field goals add up.
The Saints were better in the red zone, produced just about as many passing yards, total plays, total yards, total drives and took less sacks than the Vikings, but the slow start, the fumbles and allowing the Vikings to get in the red zone five times is what gave them an L at the end of the day.
Play of the game
Who doesn’t love some creativity on special teams? The Vikings lined up in a punt formation, but caught the Saints off guard with their fake-punt-turned-pass. Punter Ryan Wright, a former high school quarterback, completed a 13-yard pass to Adam Thielen for the first down, keeping the Vikings drive alive.
Penalties slowed the Vikings offense after the Thielen first down, and forced them to bring out their field goal unit for a successful 46-yard try.
Take a look:
In this close back-and-forth game there were a lot of points watching where I said, “This could be the turning point.”
Both teams are heading back to the states for their next matchup, following the international game.
The Saints will host the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 9. As of Sunday morning, the Seahawks are 1-2 as they get ready to face the 1-2 Detroit Lions.
The Vikings will also serve as hosts on Oct. 9, welcoming the Chicago Bears to U.S. Bank Stadium for a divisional matchup. Heading into Week 4, the Bears are 2-1 ahead of their game against the 2-1 New York Giants.