All things considered, the New Orleans Saints probably would’ve been satisfied with allowing a field goal and a six-point deficit, because the potential for worse than that seemed high on the list of possibilities.
The Minnesota Vikings had scored touchdowns on their first two possessions to open the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night, and even though the Saints managed to force a punt on Minnesota’s third drive, that momentary triumph was erased when Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw his first interception of the season to end New Orleans’ next possession.
With 3:03 left in the first half and leading 13-10, Minnesota drove from its 33-yard line to the Saints’ 18 in five plays and a pass interference penalty on cornerback Eli Apple, who was making his Saints debut.
But from there, with 71 seconds left in the half, New Orleans’ defense produced the play that swung the game.
On first down from the 18, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed a pass to receiver Adam Thielen in the left flat. As Thielen made an inside move on cornerback P.J. Williams during what eventually became a 4-yard gain, Williams torpedoed low to make the tackle. And at the same time that Williams made his move, linebacker Alex Anzalone, pursuing from inside-out on the field, closed in on Thielen’s right side to tackle the receiver high at the same time that Williams was cutting him low.
Thielen couldn't protect the football; Anzalone’s contact jarred it loose, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore was first on the scene to collect the prize. Lattimore returned the fumble 54 yards to the Vikings’ 33-yard line, and with a personal foul penalty assessed to Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell tacked on, the Saints offense took over at the Minnesota 18 with 57 seconds left.
New Orleans needed two plays to score: A 17-yard pass from Brees to running back Alvin Kamara, and a Kamara dive over the top into the end zone for the touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half.
The Saints led 17-13. They never trailed again in a 30-20 victory, their fourth road win in as many attempts this season.