If the New Orleans Saints' 52-33 victory over Minnesota on Christmas Day in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome wasn't totally a get-right win for New Orleans, it at least was one in which the Saints (11-4) got a lot right.
The Saints won their regular-season home finale, fourth straight NFC South Division title and assured that they would play at least one more game in the Superdome this season. And they did it by producing their best offensive explosion of the season, and finding the brakes just when it looked like the Vikings would run wild – New Orleans held Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to 41 yards on 12 carries after he gained 32 on his first three attempts.
There still remains the chance to capture the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC, but for now, the Saints get to rest knowing that a home playoff game is in their future.
OFFENSE: The two turnovers were bad, and costly. One prevented the Saints from scoring, and the other paved the way for a short-field touchdown drive by Minnesota. But Drew Brees otherwise completed 19 of 26 passes for 311 yards and the offense looked smooth. It helps that Alvin Kamara had an all-time day to lead the run game – an NFL record-tying six rushing touchdowns, on 22 carries for a career-high 155 yards. In all the Saints punished the Vikings for 264 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 45 carries, and the offensive line that helped pave the way for all those yards also did not allow Brees to be sacked. After going 1 for 11 on third down against Kansas City, New Orleans rebounded to go 5 for 9 against the Vikings. And after having a time of possession of just 18:46 on Sunday, the Saints maintained possession for 36:47 on Friday. New Orleans ran up season highs in points (52) and yards (583).
DEFENSE: Other than the kneel down in victory formation to end the game, the Saints offense scored every time it had the ball except the two times it committed turnovers. That will keep a defense fresh, especially one that was on the field for 92 plays against Kansas City. New Orleans' defensive penalties committed, and the fact that Minnesota was perfect on five trips to the red zone, are eyesores even in victory. But the Saints minimized Minnesota's explosive plays, held the Vikings to 58 rushing yards on 14 carries after allowing 32 on the first three carries, and forced four punts in a game where stops were precious few. Two sacks and nine quarterback hits indicate that pressure was applied, enough to generate some influence on Minnesota's offensive flow.
SPECIAL TEAMS: It was a small thing, Wil Lutz's chip-shot, 30-yard field goal. But considering he had missed three straight, it's a positive to see him watch a kick sail through the uprights. Running back/receiver Ty Montgomery supplied some juice in the kickoff return game (two for 57 yards) as the Saints continue finding ways to operate without All-Pro returner Deonte Harris.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings matchup on Christmas Day in Week 16 of the 2020 NFL season.