Minneapolis – The New Orleans Saints finally left U.S. Bank Stadium victorious after a 30-20 triumph on "Sunday Night Football."
The victory extended the Saints winning streak to six games and at 6-1 keeps them atop the NFC South standings, one game up on Carolina (5-2 after a 36-21 victory over Baltimore on Sunday).
The victory also sets the stage for the most anticipated matchup of the 2018 NFL season: the undefeated Los Angeles Rams (8-0) vs. the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Sunday at 3:25 p.m. on Fox. The Rams won last season's game at the Los Angeles Coliseum, ending the Saints' eight-game winning streak.
New Orleans took control of Sunday's game when it turned a second quarter Minnesota fumble into Alvin Kamara's second touchdown and a 17-13 halftime lead.
Minnesota (4-3-1) was driving when linebacker Alex Anzalone and cornerback P.J. Williams delivered a big hit on receiver Adam Thielen who fumbled. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore picked it up and returned it 54 yards. Following a Minnesota penalty, the Saints had the ball at the 18. A quick 17-yard pass from Drew Brees to Kamara gave the Saints a first-and-goal from the 1 and Kamara scored on the next play.
The Saints started pulling away in the second half after stopping the Vikings on fourth-and-1 (led to Wil Lutz's 42-yard field goal) and because of a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback P.J. Williams with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
The potent Vikings passing attack was on display in the first half as quarterback Kirk Cousins was 15 of 19 for 189 yards with one touchdown in the opening half with Stefon Diggs (four receptions for 54 yards with one TD) and Thielen (five catches for 75 yards) as his top targets. But the Saints defense settled down, started getting pressure on Cousins (sacks by Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport, two each) and forcing turnovers.
While nothing will erase the memory of last season's Minneapolis Miracle – an unlikely touchdown reception by Diggs that kept the Saints from playing in the NFC championship game – getting a win in Minneapolis after three games here in the past 14 months keeps the Saints momentum rolling and solidifies their status as one of the top two teams in the NFC.
Next Sunday's game between the Saints and the Rams will sort out which one is No. 1 in the conference.
Odds and ends: Cornerback Eli Apple made his first start for the Saints after being obtained earlier in the week in a trade with the New York Giants. Ken Crawley was inactive. Defensive end Everson Griffen made his return to the Vikings after missing five games for personal reasons but wasn't a factor. ... Brees threw his first interception of the season with 3:03 left in the second quarter to Harrison Smith. Brees had thrown 231 passes this season without an interception. It was another strong outing for Lutz with three made field goals, two from 42 yards and a 52-yarder in the first half. Taysom Hill saw plenty of snaps on offense, completing a long pass to Michael Thomas, catching a pass and rushing the ball three times. ... Safety Vonn Bell left the game in the fourth quarter.
Key Saints stat leaders
Drew Brees, 18 of 23 for 120 yards and one TD and one interception
Michael Thomas, five catches for 81 yards
Mark Ingram, 13 carries for 63 yards
Alvin Kamara, 13 carries for 45 yards with one rushing TD, one receiving TD