1. Dear NFL: Keep saying no to an 18-game season
Those of us against the NFL adopting an 18-game season hereby submit the Vikings' 52-33 Christmas Day debacle vs. the Saints as another example of how utterly decimated a roster can look by late December. Imagine watching this Vikings "defense" stagger through two extra games. Or how about the 49ers? Or the flat-out lousy teams like the Jets and Jaguars?
On the flip side, why risk ruining the playoffs by making great teams risk further injuries playing two more games? On Friday, undrafted rookie Blake Lynch became the seventh linebacker to start for a Vikings defense playing backups among backups to backups. Before that, he had played one defensive snap all season. It was little surprise the Saints' first 19 plays produced 14 first downs, two TDs, 216 yards and no third downs. Eliminating two preseason games doesn't offset an 18-game season. Starters barely play in the preseason.
2. Brees wasn't good,but he sure was tough
Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar played three quarters of a "Monday Night Football" game on a fractured ankle in 1992. What Drew Brees is doing might be even more remarkable. He fractured 11 ribs and punctured a lung against the 49ers on Nov. 15. Forty days later, he played his second game in five days when he faced the Vikings.
A game after the third-worst completion percentage of his 302-game career (44.1), Brees still wasn't very good. He had his first multi-interception game in 47 games. The Saints faced only two third downs in the first 25 minutes. Brees responded by underthrowing an open target in the end zone and throwing a red-zone interception to Hardy Nickerson Jr. But Brees hung in there and later completed a 44-yarder while protecting his ribs against a free blitzer. Kicking off some rust will bode well for the playoffs.
3. In a shootout, Bradbury, Dozier can't get manhandled
Make no mistake: When a team gives up 52 points, 583 yards and allows someone to tie Ernie Nevers' 91-year-old record of six rushing touchdowns, the defense is at fault. "This is a bad defense," coach Mike Zimmer admitted. "Worst one I ever had." But it didn't help in a shootout that center Garrett Bradbury and left guard Dakota Dozier kept getting dumped into Kirk Cousins' lap at critical moments early on.
The Vikings' defense was getting throttled, but the offense made it a three-point game (17-14) with a second-quarter touchdown. Then the defense got a takeaway on Harrison Hand's interception, but the offense went three-and-out when defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata destroyed Dozier and Bradbury. They met at Cousins' lap. The Saints took a 10-point lead on the ensuing possession.
4. Jefferson's 'functional intelligence' is at elite level
At least this dismal season will be remembered for the arrival of Justin Jefferson as everything fellow first-rounder Laquon Treadwell wasn't. Jefferson caught six more passes for 85 yards, extending his rookie records to 79 catches and 1,267 yards. His 25-yard catch to the Saints' 4-yard line was a good example of how he is beyond his years in getting open. His move in open space over the middle fooled 12-year safety Malcolm Jenkins and set up a touchdown to cut the Saints' lead to 17-14.
"He's a kid who makes catches in traffic that you don't expect him to make," receivers coach Andrew Janocko said. "I think he has superb body control and what he can do within a route to create separation, I think it's instincts, I think it's a functional intelligence that's at a very elite level."
5. The most disappointing team since2010?
The Vikings have played 11 seasons since they last made the playoffs in consecutive years. Brad Childress did it in 2008-09. Zimmer has three playoff appearances but has missed the playoffs the following season each time. With Stefon Diggs helping the Bills make it back to the playoffs this season, 18 teams have now had back-to-back playoff appearances in the past 11 seasons. That leaves 14 teams that haven't, including fellow Packer-chasers Chicago and Detroit. Of those 14 teams, the Vikings and 49ers are tied for most playoff appearances (four) during those 11 seasons. But the 49ers at least won two of three NFC title games and went to a couple Super Bowls. The Vikings have had five winning records in those 11 seasons. Only Tennessee has had more (six). And the AFC South-leading Titans are about toremove their name from that frustrating list.
The Star Tribune reporter did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.