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MCFEELY: Minnesota Miracle saves Vikings from disaster

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs for the end zone and scores the winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff football game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — That was for Drew Pearson's Hail Mary. And Gary Anderson's wide left. And Brett Favre's interception. And Blair Walsh's shank.

And the four Super Bowls. Of course, those four awful losses.

That was for you, Minnesota Vikings fans. You got one. You finally got one.

How does it feel?

Judging by the explosion inside U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 14, when Stefon Diggs leaped high, pulled down a Case Keenum pass along the sideline and avoided being hit by New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams before sprinting 61 yards for a touchdown as time expired to give the Vikings a miracle playoff victory, it must have felt pretty darned good.

Vikings 29, Saints 24.

Say it again. Say it loud. Scream it if you want, as often as you want.

Vikings 29, Saints 24.

Hell, yes.

Let freedom ring. From Minneapolis to Mankato to Worthington to Duluth to Moorhead, the franchise curse is dead. From Fargo to Bismarck to Dickinson to Pembina, it is gone. From Sioux Falls to Rapid City to Aberdeen to Waubay to Lemmon, it has been exorcised. From Des Moines to Ames to Spencer to Davenport, it's gone.

With that one play, snatching a supernatural victory from the jaws of a crushing defeat, the Vikings shed the playoff baggage that dogged them since 1961. All of the heartbreak, gone in the time it took Diggs to sprint across the goal line after catching Keenum's pass.

At last, a Minnesota Miracle.

"I'm still in shock," Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said in the locker room afterward. "I don't know if I'll ever get over this."

Thielen grew up in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and played college ball for Minnesota State Mankato, a lifelong Vikings fan who'd lived through the pain and suffering just like every other Vikings fan.

He was 8 years old after the 1998 season when Anderson's missed field goal in the NFC Championship against Atlanta cost the Vikings a Super Bowl berth. He was 19 after the 2009 season when Favre's late interception against these Saints again cost them a trip to the big game. He played in the game a couple of years ago against Seattle when Walsh missed a short field goal to lose a playoff game. Thielen wasn't alive for any of the Super Bowls or Dallas' own miracle against the Vikings in 1975, but he knows of them. He knows of all the soul-crushing defeats.

So Thielen knows what this unbelievable victory means to all those who live and die with the Vikings.

"Shoot, just being a Vikings fan from day one, we've been through a lot just being a fan," Thielen said. "I can't wait to see all the hype. It was already big going into this game. We felt so much energy throughout the week from social media and the news. It's been so fun to see everybody so excited in this community and really just having our backs."

The thing is, this one looked like so many of the other heart-wrenching defeats. The Vikings were going to throw away a game they should've won easily. They took a 17-0 lead early and the sellout crowd inside U.S. Bank Stadium was rip-roaring loud, waving their white towels like a blizzard. Then Drew Brees got New Orleans a touchdown, Keenum threw an awful interception and all the insecurities came roaring back.

Everybody was thinking the same thing: The Vikings were going to blow another one.

The Saints took a 21-20 lead on a touchdown with 3 minutes left. But Kai Forbath kicked a 53-yard field goal with 1:29 remaining to give Minnesota a 23-21 lead. New Orleans answered with a Wil Lutz field goal to take a 24-23 with 25 seconds left.

That was it, right? They did it again. The Vikings choked again. Another sad chapter in a pathetic history.

Not this time. Not on this day. The most improbable play came at the most improbable time from the most improbable franchise. Keenum to Diggs will live forever. There were fans crying inside the stadium.

"There were a lot of ups and downs growing up a Vikings fan," said Minnesota fullback C.J. Ham, a Duluth native who played for Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. "Getting this playoff win is huge for us, huge for the organization, huge for the fans."

Vikings 29, Saints 24.

In the immortal words of Prince, which blared inside the stadium, let's go crazy. Soak it in, celebrate and party until you can't party any more. Call into work sick if you have to.

You deserve it, Vikings fans. You really, really — really — deserve it.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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