Storybook finish: Minnesota Vikings beat Saints on a walk-off touchdown from Keenum to Diggs

Vikings blew 17-0 halftime lead to Saints before miraculous final play to extend season

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If the storybook season of Case Keenum's Vikings wasn't already unbelievable, it is now.

Keenum found Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard walkoff touchdown, and the Vikings beat the Saints, 29-24, to advance to the NFC title game in Philadelphia next Sunday night.

New Orleans stormed back from a 17-0 first-half deficit to take a 24-23 lead with just 29 seconds remaining on a Wil Lutz 43-yard field goal. Minutes earlier, the Saints took their first lead, 21-20, on Drew Brees' third second half touchdown throw.

It quickly began to appear that another Vikings' playoff game would be decided by a kick. Remember, Minnesota lost the 1998 NFC Championship game to the road underdog Falcons in excruciating fashion with Gary Anderson missing a late field goal that could've finished the Falcons. And two postseasons ago, it was Blair Walsh's miss wide left on a would-be 27-yard game-winner over Seattle in the frigid wild-card round.

So when Forbath, who missed a 49-yarder just before halftime, drilled a career-long 53-yarder with just 94 seconds left to give Minnesota a 23-21 lead, the demons of Anderson, Walsh and the Vikings' postseason heartbreak seemed to be exorcised.

Except there was too much time left for Brees, who quickly positioned Lutz, leaving Minnesota with just 25 seconds and one timeout to go at least 40 yards to give Forbath a shot. He wouldn't need it.

After a false start backed him up to begin the drive, Keenum found Diggs twice — the first a 19-yarder and quickly out of bounds before the miracle in Minnesota. To begin one of the biggest plays in franchise history, "heaven seven" as Diggs would later identify the play as, Keenum lofted one up to his right for Diggs, who caught it and just needed to get out of bounds to give Forbath a chance.

Instead, Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams misread the play and took a low lunging tackle attempt at Diggs. But he not only missed Diggs, Williams took teammate Patrick Crawley out of the play, too, and Diggs waltzed into the end zone, where he flung his helmet and the celebration was underway.

Keenum finished the game 25-of-40 for 318 yards and one pick to go along with the game-winner. It was that ill-advised interception in Minnesota territory that the Saints quickly capitalized on to make it a 17-14 game.

But Keenum — who lived dangerously throughout this one by throwing several 50-50 balls for Diggs and teammate Adam Thielen — showed the type of guts coach Mike Zimmer colorfully praised him for, too.

On the subsequent series following his pick, Keenum threw a 27-yard dart into the tiniest of windows for Jarius Wright. Minnesota would take a 20-17 lead just a few plays later, after Sean Payton burned a pair of timeouts on ridiculous challenge calls. The first was to challenge whether Wright didn't secure the catch; the second when Keenum was nearly sacked by Cam Jordan but managed to ditch the football before his knee touched down and salvage roughly eight yards and a makable field goal for Forbath.

For the Vikings' top-rated 'D,' it was a story of two halves. During their shutout in the first 30 minutes, Brees was swarmed consistently by pass rushers. But Minnesota had some problems accounting for the Saints' top playmakers — Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara — who accounted for all three of the scores.

But Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith made big plays on the Saints' final possession to ensure it would end only in a Saints field goal, and Keenum and his top two receivers in Diggs and Adam Thielen were as clutch as they come.

Thielen's 24-yard leaping catch with 1:55 left bailed out Keenum and helped get Forbath in range. He also coaxed a key defensive holding penalty on Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore, who engaged in an entertaining battle with Minnesota's stud wideouts all day.

Fittingly it's Keenum, the Vikings' yeoman workeer who has piloted a top-10 offense since Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook were lost early to injuries and led the Vikings within one game of the Super Bowl, who helped himself the most in this one. Keenum is only a few months from cashing in on the free-agent market after signing a one-year, $2 million deal this offseason to compete for the backup spot.

On the money down, he and the Vikings were tremendous — 10-of-17, compared to 2-of-9 for the Saints. And was third-and-10, Keenum to Diggs, in a play that will never be forgotten in Minnesota or New Orleans.