Vikings advance to NFC championship on last-second touchdown

The Minnesota Vikings will play for the NFC championship after one of the wildest endings ever to an NFL playoff game. Minnesota defeated the New Orleans Saints 29-24 on Sunday, scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game after New Orleans took the lead on a field goal with 25 seconds remaining. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum found Stefon Diggs for the game-winning play, which began on their own 39-yard line.

Minnesota was in control early in the divisional round, building a comfortable 17-0 lead by halftime. But Saints quarterback Drew Brees began to solve the vaunted Vikings defense after tossing two first-half interceptions. New Orleans opened the second half with touchdowns on its first two drives, and Brees found Alvin Kamara to give the Saints their first lead of the contest with 3:01 remaining. Minnesota could only manage field goals in the second half until Keenum connected with Diggs while New Orleans rookie safety Marcus Williams took out a teammate on his missed tackle attempt, leaving Diggs with a clear path to the end zone.

The Vikings have never won a Super Bowl, and their postseason history is littered with heartbreaking losses and missed opportunities. Sunday’s game nearly became part of that history with a blown 17-point lead and a final drive that began with an embarrassing false start penalty. Keenum surpassed 300 yards passing on his fateful toss to Diggs, which removed the stain of the interception he threw early in the second half that led to a Saints touchdown. He was a backup quarterback thrust into a starting job, expected to be a placeholder until Teddy Bridgewater was healthy enough to play, but after that touchdown pass, Keenum embodies the hopes and dreams of a Vikings franchise long overdue for a shot at a title.

Minnesota visits the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday to decide the NFC championship in a game that should be dominated by two of the NFL’s top defenses. If the Vikings prevail against Philadelphia, they will become the first team to play a Super Bowl at their home stadium, which was chosen to host Super Bowl LII in 2014. It’s enough to make Minnesota feel like a team of destiny, and Sunday’s result did little to change that feeling.