A year after his decision to keep running created the Minneapolis Miracle, Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs stopped and, in his own words, handed those same Saints a game-deciding pick-six in Sunday night’s 30-20 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.
With the Vikings trailing 20-13 late in the third quarter, Kirk Cousins was looking for Diggs on a shallow crossing route when the pocket began to collapse. Diggs stopped running. Cornerback P.J. Williams didn’t.
Cousins threw the ball where he expected Diggs to be, but only Williams was there. The ball went 45 yards the other way for a two-score lead, and essentially the ballgame, with 5 minutes, 58 seconds left in the third.
“That’s all on me,” Diggs said. “I should have done what I’m coached to do instead of stopping.”
Diggs is one of the league’s best route runners, so he did have an explanation as to why he stopped. He said he saw a window for Cousins to throw to him as the pocket collapsed.
“He was under duress, so I was trying to give him a relief throw,” Diggs said. “The pocket was collapsing, so I was just trying to show him my hand. And he just did what he’s coached to do and threw it to the spot. It was miscommunication and I take full responsibility. [Cousins] did everything right.
“[Williams] got an easy pick. Touchdown. If we get that play back, maybe the game would be different. That will be in my brain until we see them again.”
Nine months after Diggs’ walkoff 61-yard touchdown won that NFC divisional playoff game, the Vikings (4-3-1) fell out of first place and were in a much different mood in the locker room.
As reporters filed in, receivers Adam Thielen and Diggs took turns taking the blame for two crushing turnovers.
Thielen went first and apologized for his red-zone fumble that created a potential 14-point swing and a 17-13 Saints lead right before halftime. Of course, Thielen also caught all seven passes thrown to him for 103 yards and a touchdown while becoming the first player in the 99-year history of the NFL to start a season with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
“Adam didn’t lose the game; we lost the game as a unit,” Diggs said. “I have 100 percent faith in Adam. I don’t even think about that play because he makes too many [good ones]. He has that dog mind-set that he’ll bounce back. And he did.”
Diggs apologized second. Of course, he also had 10 catches for 119 yards, and a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter. The only pass intended for Diggs that wasn’t caught was the one that led to Williams’ pick-six.
Early on, Diggs was having his way with Williams. On the Vikings’ first possession, Diggs beat Williams for the touchdown and a 30-yard completion to the 1.
“They have a great football team, but we have a good football team as well,” Diggs said of the Saints, who have won six in a row after a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay.
“We can’t make mistakes in critical situations, and we did. We couldn’t come back from them.”
The Vikings tried to downplay the Minneapolis Miracle when reporters asked about it last week. But when it came game time, the team chose to show the play on the big screens while players from both teams were on the field.
The crowd erupted, creating an energy level higher than a typical midseason game. The Vikings were in control until Thielen’s fumble. They still had a chance until Diggs stopped running.
Asked how many times he’s done something like that and made a positive play, Diggs smiled and said, “We’ll save that for another time.”
Diggs also was asked what he thought about the Minneapolis Miracle playing on the big screens right before kickoff. He said he didn’t see it.
“That’s in the past,” he said. “It’s something we’ll think about when I get old. … I didn’t do enough [Sunday]. And I will.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org