Dave Handeland had stopped jumping up and down and doing karate kicks inside his Bloomington living room minutes after watching Stefon Diggs’ walkoff touchdown give the Vikings a stunning 29-24 NFC divisional playoff victory Sunday when the thought of winning an extra $260 crossed his mind.
A friend in Las Vegas had put money for him on the game’s point spread — the Vikings were 5- to 5½-point favorites over the New Orleans Saints leading up to kickoff according to Las Vegas oddsmakers — and he’d need an extra Viking point to beat the spread and collect. Though there was no time remaining on the clock, he knew the game technically wasn’t over.
NFL rules dictate that after a touchdown, a team snap the ball in an extra-point attempt — something that didn’t matter a lick to the Vikings, who had the game in hand regardless of whether they flubbed the point-after attempt or the Saints recovered it for a score, worth only two points.
But it mattered to an untold number of fans with money riding on the point spread.
Would Vikings coach Mike Zimmer make the call to kick it, piling on another point against the rival Saints? Or would the team simply take a knee and bring the thriller to an end?
“The greedy me wants the Vikings to kick the extra point to cover,” Handeland tweeted Sunday.
In the nearly 10 minutes it took for officials to clear the field of the exuberant pandemonium, some waited with nervous energy at the Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip while others stood up to cash in.
“We were like, ‘No the game is not over.’ We’re waiting for the NFL to finish their protocol,” said Jay Rood, vice president of Race and Sports for MGM Resorts. “We were having to hold everyone at bay.”
When Vikings quarterback Case Keenum strode back onto the field, it became more clear what would happen next. Keenum led the jubilant crowd in a Vikings “Skol” chant before taking the snap and kneeling down with the football, capping an anxiety-inducing fourth quarter and an unbelievable ending.
“THEY HAVE TO KICK. I’M DYING,” one bettor tweeted.
“Greatest kneeldown ever!” another wrote.
When Fox Sports sportscaster Nick Wright tweeted that Zimmer should “do right by Vikings -5 bettors” and kick the extra point, he faced a Twitter backlash.
“He doesn’t owe anybody anything. If you bet, that kind of stuff happens and you fully know that going in!” one sports fan responded.
“Dumbest take ever!” tweeted another.
For Handeland, speaking to his mother on the phone later reminded him of the perspective. He heard her alternately laugh and cry tears of joy.
“The difference of a couple hundred bucks compared to my mom bawling out of happiness?” he said.
There was no question.
Handeland placed his bet on the Vikings as a 5-point favorite. Because they won by that margin he “pushed,” meaning that he didn’t win or lose but got his money back. He is letting his bet ride into Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, where the oddsmakers on Monday listed the Vikings as 3½-point favorites.
“I’d rather take the win at any point,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to have the chance.”
Besides, he already placed a few dollars on the Super Bowl: Vikings to win at 15-1 odds.