Saints and Vikings meet again with high stakes, pressure
After a 31-26 playoff win over Carolina, Drew Brees was asked about the rematch with Minnesota.
Four months later, Brees was on target again.
“That seems like a year ago,” said the Saints quarterback.
That game will be far different from the NFC Divisional Playoff game to be played between the two teams Sunday.
For openers, the Saints are missing seven who started on a Monday night in week one. Alex Okafor, Alex Anzalone, AJ Klein and Kenny Vaccaro are all defensive starters who have landed on injured reserve.
The Saints are missing two starters on the offensive line, tackle Zach Strief and guard Andrus Peat. Running back Adrian Peterson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
Missing for Minnesota is running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Sam Bradford.
Looking at the all 22 game film and the network TV copy, appreciation grows for the accuracy of quarterback Bradford that night. He was 27 of 32, throwing blue darts all over the field, at times into tight coverage.
Can his replacement Case Keenum do the same?
The regular season stats of Keenum and Brees are remarkably similar. The experienced Brees threw 536 times, completing 23 for touchdowns with eight interceptions while Keenum threw 481 times, completing 22 for touchdowns with seven interceptions.
But the elephant in the room for the Vikings is playoff starts.
Brees has 12, winning seven. Keenum has zero.
The Vikings, with their solid run game and terrific defense, do a great job of keeping the pressure off their quarterback.
Can Keenum be not just a game manager but a playmaker when required?
To borrow a phrase from Saints head coach Sean Payton, “We’ll see.”
There are some pertinent nuggets to gather from the Vikings 10-point win over the Saints in week one.
New Orleans made five red zone visits with only one touchdown to show for them. Three Saints field goal drives ended inside the Minnesota 10-yard line including two of them at the Vikings two.
One more touchdown in the red zone than not would make a giant difference in a playoff game.
This red zone matchup, Saints offense versus Vikings defense, figures to be one of the big deciders in the game.
The Vikings have been very good there, allowing only 40 percent of opponents drives in the red zone to end in touchdowns. That is third best in the league.
In games like this, little things make a big difference.
In the first meeting, former Saints kicker Kai Forbath missed an extra point and came perilously close to missing a short field goal attempt.
Forbath, who missed 5 extra points this season, had a solid year at 84 percent field goal makes. But the Saints appear to have an edge with kicker Wil Lutz.
In game one, the Vikings had a difficult time blocking Saints defensive end Cam Jordan in a precursor to Jordan’s best season as a pro.
In this game, all the pressure is on Minnesota, the NFC’s number two seed playing at home. The Vikings won 13 games, going 7-1 at home.
Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since the week before they lost to the Saints in the NFC championship game January 2010..
The Vikings are the perennial playoff bridesmaid, winless in four Super Bowl trips including two losses at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. An NFC title this year would give Minnesota a Super Bowl berth in their own home stadium.
New Orleans, the city and its pro football team, have been a bad roux lately for Minnesota. It’s a trend that the Saints hope to perpetuate in the Divisional Playoffs.
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WGNO Sports Director/WGSO 990am
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…