Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. made a crucial play in the Buccaneers 30-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night that presumptively ended Drew Brees’ career on a sour note.
The Saints led 20-13 late in the third quarter and were approaching scoring territory when Brees completed a pass over the middle to Jared Cook. Winfield Jr. chased down Cook and punched the ball out, forcing a fumble that Tampa Bay turned into a tying touchdown. It was a play that shifted all momentum to the Buccaneers who went on to score 10 more points to move onto the NFC Championship Game.
Forcing the game-changing fumble meant much more to Winfield Jr. than just helping his team move one step closer to their goal of a Super Bowl. For the 22-year-old Golden Gophers product, it was about exacting revenge on Brees.
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Winfield Jr.: ‘Made Some Grown Men Cry…That Was for My Pops’
Winfield Jr. posted a video of the play on social media with a caption that reflected on some personal family strife he holds with the Brees and New Orleans.
“Made some grown men cry last night and I don’t feel bad about it! That was for my pops back in ’09,” Winfield Jr. wrote, referring to the 2009 NFC Championship Game where Brees led the Saints to a 31-28 overtime victory over Winfield’s father, Antoine Winfield Sr., and the Minnesota Vikings.
While Minnesota has exacted their revenge on New Orleans in both 2017 and 2019, some games just stick. The 2009 NFC Championship has drawn harsh criticism by Vikings fans who feel Brett Favre was a target of the bounty scandal that later came out about the Saints following their Super Bowl win that season.
Vikings Well-Connected to Super Bowl Contenders
While the Vikings missed the playoffs for the third time in six seasons, several former members of Minnesota are still in the chase for Super Bowl 55.
Former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is the Buffalo Bills assistant coach and defensive coordinator. His defense held the Baltimore Ravens to just a field goal in a 17-3 victory on Sunday to propel the Bills to their first AFC Championship Game since 1994.
Stefon Diggs caught eight passes for 106 yards and Buffalo’s only offensive touchdown in the victory. The former Minnesota wide receiver led the league in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535) and is returning to his first conference championship game since the 2018 NFC Championship, where the Vikings fell 38-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Before he was one of the most sought-after offensive minds in the league, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was Minnesota’s running backs coach who hounded Adrian Peterson into one of the best running backs in history.
Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Tyler Johnson hasn’t worn the purple and yellow yet, but he has played on the same turf as the Vikings in his days at Minneapolis North High School. Johnson went on to play at the University of Minnesota with Winfield Jr. as both Golden Gophers face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.