Treadwell makes turnover worse
Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell’s temper made Adam Thielen’s game-changing second-quarter turnover even worse when he lost his cool, ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground. That moment of rage at the end of a 54-yard fumble return by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore moved the Saints from the Vikings 33-yard line to the 18. That was a huge mistake, considering only 57 seconds remained in the first half. The Vikings led 13-10 when Thielen caught a 4-yard pass at the Saints 14-yard line. His fumble changed the game, but Drew Brees was not having a typical Drew Brees game at that point. Treadwell did make the tackle, but his undisciplined reaction to the play moved Brees into the red zone. The Saints needed two plays to move 18 yards and score on a 1-yard dive by Alvin Kamara to take a 17-13 lead.
Why did Diggs stop running on pick-six?
In case you don’t know by now, Stefon Diggs was the star of last year’s “Minneapolis Miracle.” The walkoff game-winning playoff catch and run against the Saints was replayed over and over last week. The Vikings went so far as to replay it on U.S. Bank Stadium’s big screens moments before the game, with the Saints on the field. That has to be some kind of jinx, eh? Diggs had a good game, going over 100 yards and proving he has the talent and route-running ability to be paid as handsomely as he now is. But, unlike the “Minneapolis Miracle,” when Diggs kept running rather than scoot out of bounds for a game-winning field goal attempt, Diggs stopped running his route on the P.J. Williams’ 45-yard pick-six. Kirk Cousins clearly thought Diggs was going to keep running. When he didn’t, Williams had an easy path to a 27-13 Saints lead.
Taysom is something special for Saints
The highest-rated passer on the field Sunday night wasn’t the $84 million Cousins or the future Hall of Famer Brees. It was Taysom Hill, a 6-2, 221-pound do-everything weapon that Saints coach Sean Payton is only beginning to enjoy unwrapping. The 28-year-old second-year player from Brigham Young needed just five plays Sunday to show how dangerous he can be when he’s lined up in the shotgun and Brees is split wide. The Vikings couldn’t ignore Brees. And Hill is a good enough thrower to make a defense respect the pass. On second-and-9 from the Saints 48, Hill launched a deep ball to Michael Thomas. Even with safety Harrison Smith being flagged for interference, Thomas caught the ball for a 44-yard gain to set up the opening touchdown. Hill also had a 26-yard kickoff return, caught a pass for 5 yards and ran the ball three times.
Emotional challenge too early for Zimmer
Mike Zimmer’s red challenge flag was thrown so quickly following the third play of the game that one has to question whether the Vikings coach got too caught up in what was a wildly emotional pregame and opening minutes to a midseason game. Had he waited a little longer, he would have seen or been told that Michael Thomas did indeed get his right heel inbounds before toppling out of bounds with a 20-yard catch on third-and-2. In real time, it looked as though Thomas went out of bounds with Trae Waynes muscling him out in extra tight coverage. But the call was confirmed. Zimmer should have waited until the team was able to view the play a couple more times. Less than two minutes into the game, he lost a timeout and was down to one challenge for the game’s remaining 57-plus minutes.
Tale of two fourth-down decisions
On the other hand, Zimmer’s decisiveness was spot on and paid off on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the first quarter. The Saints led 7-0 and the Vikings were one offensive possession into the game. But Zimmer alertly knew that kicking short field goals early is a good way to lose to Brees. Picking on cornerback P.J. Williams for the third time in seven snaps, Cousins hit Stefon Diggs for the tying touchdown. Zimmer also went for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 45 to open the second half. In shotgun formation with five wide and an empty backfield, the pass was swatted from Treadwell’s grasp. The call was acceptable, but the formation wasn’t. It needed to at least show the threat of a run or a sneak, especially since the Vikings were running the ball well. Brees turned the short field into three points.