At some point during the third quarter Sunday, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees continued carving up the Vikings defense like it was a tender holiday ham, it seemed appropriate to gauge the public reaction on Twitter.

The exercise: describe New Orleans' effortless massacre of the Vikings in one word.

The flood of responses proved revealing.

Pitiful. Sickening. Bloodbath.

That's about right to describe a 42-20 loss in which the Vikings had nearly as many punts (seven) as they had first downs (12).

Comical. Ridiculous. Predictable.

Those adjectives work, too. Especially on an afternoon where Brees threw for 412 yards, gunning five touchdown passes to four different receivers without even playing the final 12 minutes.

Lethargic. Lousy. Typical.

The list could go on forever.

Thankfully, the season won't.

Now, only two games remain for the 2-12 Vikings, who may have sunk to rock bottom Sunday, delivering another stinker that left only a small collection of numb fans in the Mall of America Field stands to witness the fourth quarter.

The in-house description of the Vikings' third blowout loss this season?

"It's a terrible feeling," Jared Allen said. "I know everybody is disgusted right now."

Added Adrian Peterson, who returned after a three-week absence to total 60 rushing yards on 10 carries: "It was a lot of missed tackles defensively, a lot of missed opportunities offensively. There was effort out there. But it wasn't good enough."

And if you're not yet convinced New Orleans completely dominated, digest the following statistics, which should provide ample evidence of just how far away these Vikings are from NFL relevance.

The Vikings ran 34 plays in the first three quarters. Only three went for more than 10 yards.

The Saints owned a 573-207 advantage in total yardage and a 36-12 cushion in first downs and punted only once.

They also averaged 7.8 yards per play on the 10 possessions Brees engineered.

"Just Drew being Drew out there," Saints receiver Lance Moore said. "Everybody else only gets to see it once a week. But we get to see it every day."

The Saints' first-half touchdown passes proved their balance and explosiveness. First came a 5-yard dart to Moore, who fought past a jam by Benny Sapp to run a textbook slant route.

Not long after that, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham simply outjumped and outmuscled safety Jamarca Sanford near the right sideline for a 1-yard TD grab.

Late in the half, Brees found running back Darren Sproles over the middle as the pint-sized speedster raced past linebacker Chad Greenway as if he were cone on an obstacle course.

"When Drew's in a zone, the man's in a zone," Vikings defensive tackle Remi Ayodele said. "It's like nobody can even get to him. We got after him a few times. But it's like he feels the pressure at the last second. That little step up does so much for him and his receivers are always ready. They just have a rhythm. All they do is throw that ball to each other."

At times, it seemed as if Brees was spinning a wheel to determine who his next target would be.

And just to remove all doubt that this was anything but a lousy, ridiculous, pitiful performance by the Vikings, New Orleans scored on its first three possessions after halftime to prove their point.

The Saints' final touchdown drive was an inescapable sleeper hold -- 19 plays, 87 yards over 10 minutes, 36 seconds. And when it culminated with a 1-yard run by Pierre Thomas, New Orleans had run 27 second-half plays for 204 yards to the Vikings' 10 plays for 8 yards.

Even when the Vikings scored early on, it was only because they didn't have more time to get in their own way. Their two first-half field goal drives, set up by fumble recoveries by Mistral Raymond and Everson Griffen, netted zero and minus-10 yards.

Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder lamented those missed opportunities.

The fans, meanwhile, occasionally pelted Ponder with boos, dissatisfied in an effort that saw the 23-year-old quarterback complete only 14 of 31 passes for 120 yards.

Asked afterward if Ponder still seemed like the long-term answer at quarterback, coach Leslie Frazier hesitated.

"He struggled today," Frazier said. "As I mentioned, we have two games left, so I want to continue to watch him play and understand that we still have to get some pieces around him."

The Saints, 11-3 and headed for a division championship, have no such worries. They are a well-oiled machine that exposed the Vikings for what they truly are right now.

Deficient. Overmatched. Uninspired.

Dan Wiederer •