It’s becoming a January tradition – the New Orleans Saints losing in heartwrenching, controversial fashion in the NFL Playoffs.
On Sunday, it was more of the same, as the Minnesota Vikings stunned the No. 3-seeded Saints in the Wild Card Round, taking them down in dramatic fashion in overtime.
The Vikings received the ball to open the OT period and drove down the field for the game-winning score.
Facing a critical third and goal at the four-yard line, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins delivered a pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph who secured the ball in the back of the end zone for the game-winner.
On the play, Rudolph appeared to push off against Saints cornerback P.J. Williams, giving him the necessary space to secure the grab.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was now allowed to challenge the play since the NFL’s officiating command center handles all reviews in OT. The league ultimately decided not to review the play.
According to the NFL rule book, a player is prohibited from “initiating contact with an opponent by shoving or pushing off, thus creating separation.”
While there was hand fighting between both players, Rudolph clearly pushes Williams away with his left hand as the ball is coming in. Whether that was enough contact to warrant an offensive penalty and an overturn of a game-winning TD is debatable, but the league deemed the review unnecessary based on their initial view of the play.
Here’s a better look at the contact prior to Rudolph’s catch. You be the judge.
With the win, the Vikings advance to the divisional round, where they will meet the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET.
Saints Eliminated on Final Play for Third Straight Time
The irony of Sunday’s decision will not fall short on Saints fans. In last season’s NFC Championship game, New Orleans infamously did not get a key pass interference call late in regulation when their receiver Tommylee Lewis was drilled by the Los Angeles Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman. The Saints would go on to lose the game in overtime.
Coming off that game, the league passed a new rule in the offseason that made offensive and defensive pass interference calls and non-calls subject to review. According to ESPN, three offensive pass interference penalties were added via booth review in the first two weeks of this season. However, the league has been extra stringent in their interpretation of the rule since Week 2, handing out the offensive pass interference penalty via booth review only one time since.
The Saints added yet another heartbreak to their recent postseason history on Sunday. A year prior to last season’s no-call nightmare in the NFC Championship Game, New Orleans was on the wrong end of the “Minneapolis Miracle,” losing on a last-second, walk-off touchdown in the divisional round to the Vikings in 2018.
With yet another walk-off loss in the playoffs, the Saints are the second team since the Green Bay Packers in 2013-2015 to be eliminated in three consecutive postseasons on the final play of the game.