"The Stack" 1-15-18

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minneapolis Miracle. Stefon Diggs scored on a 61-yard touchdown catch from Case Keenum to stun the Saints 29-24 and advance to the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Unbelievable!

Jubilation! Elation! The Stack is on cloud 9 today following one of if not the top moment in Minnesota sports history (I still think Kirby Puckett’s homerun might take the cake). I wish it were a holiday for me today, because work is going to be tough on what little sleep I am on, but we’ll survive. Somehow I survived the Saints-Vikings game though I think I may be in heaven or more appropriately Valhalla so let’s get to the some reaction to NFL Divisional weekend in “the stack” for today, Monday, January 16th:

Eagles 15 Falcons 10

Eagles fans were nervous coming into this game and rightfully so. Nick Foles didn’t give them much reason to be any less nervous early on in the game. A fumble on the first possession by Jay Ajayi and then a punt on the second possession, the Eagles offense did little to inspire. The defense though kept them in the game as the Falcons offense wasn’t much better though they did have a 10-6 lead. Crazy sequence at the end of the first half when Foles overthrew his wide receiver and it hit off Falcons safety Keanu Neal’s knee or some part of the body and caught by the Eagles. They would score a field goal to cut the lead to 10-9 at half and it was a momentum builder for sure. Foles’ confidence soared in the second half on some run-pass-option (RPO) play calls that led to long drives. The Falcons couldn’t stop it. Though the Eagles couldn’t punch it in, they would settle for field goals to take the lead. The Falcons had a chance at the end of the game with a great drive that included a conversion on 4th and 6 when Julio Jones caught a pass. It would eventually be first and goal from the 9 and the Falcons offense stalled. A failed pass on fourth down from the two to Jones who slipped on the play sealed their fate. There is no reason the Falcons shouldn’t have won this game. Instead they are home and the Eagles are preparing to play at home in the NFC Championship game.

Patriots 35 Titans 14

When Marcus Mariota found Corey Davis to give the Titans a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, I think there were a lot of shocked people who thought that this would be the day the Patriots would get knocked off. Not so fast. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense went to work and whether it was Dion Lewis, James White or Rob Gronkowski, the Titans had no answer. They also couldn’t move the ball on offense after that long touchdown drive. The Patriots took care of business and are in the AFC Championship game for a seventh straight year. That is pretty amazing.

Jaguars 45 Steelers 42

Why wouldn’t anyone think that Blake Bortles and the Jaguars could score 45 points against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh a week after they scored just ten points at home against the Buffalo Bills? The Jaguars came out in this game and punched the Steelers right in the mouth. Leonard Fournette was running well again and before you knew it it was 21-0 Jaguars. The Steelers clearly didn’t expect this fight from the Jaguars. They were already looking ahead to a rematch with the Patriots. Finally the Steelers got going scoring a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-7. They got the ball back and seemed to be getting some momentum going until Big Ben was stripped and Telvin Smith returned it for a touchdown. Yup, that’s about a wrap. Oh wait, Big Ben and the Steelers weren’t done. On 4th and 11 late in the first half Big Ben let it rip and Martavus Bryant got behind the Jaguars secondary and caught the touchdown to cut the lead to 28-14. They would score a touchdown right away in the third quarter to make it 28-21. The Jaguars would answer though. The Steelers again converted on a fourth down touchdown to cut the lead once again and that is when Bortles showed what he was made of. A first down pass on third down to Marquise Lee moved the chains. Then a huge pass to rookie Keelan Cole set up first and goal in which Fournette effectively put the Jaguars comfortably ahead. A Steelers touchdown followed by a failure of an onside kick sealed the deal. The Jaguars are going to New England to face the Patriots. Not the Steelers. It’s going to be a long and very interesting offseason in Pittsburgh.

Vikings 29 Saints 24

I’m not going to go on and on and on about this game though I could. It’s not in an attempt to spare Saints fans any misery, because after what the Saints did to the Vikings in the 2009 NFC Championship game, they absolutely deserve it, but more so because I feel like once I start I won’t be able to stop. For Vikings fans, this game started out exactly how they needed it to. The Vikings forced a punt on the first possession for the Saints and went down the field and scored a touchdown themselves. Drew Brees was clearly not himself in the first half and it showed with two interceptions. It was 17-0 at the half and could have, no should have been 20-0 had Kai Forbath not hooked his field goal just to the left. I said it at the half to my dad and everyone I was watching the game with that that missed field goal could come back to haunt them. The Vikings drove down the field right away in the third quarter chewing up a lot of clock, but Case Keenum took a sack on third down that took the Vikings out of field goal range. Brees and the Saints offense went to work. They scored a touchdown to cut the lead to ten. The Vikings lost safety Andrew Sendejo to a concussion and cornerback Xavier Rhodes got nicked up a little bit. The Saints would get the ball back very quickly after Keenum put up an ill-advised throw that would be picked off. All of a sudden it was 17-14. The Vikings would get a field goal, but the Saints responded with another touchdown to Alvin Kamara to give them the lead. Insane. Vikings fans had to feel like “here we go again”. The Vikings would drive down though and Forbath would make amends for his previous miss with a 53-yard field goal that went right down the middle. 23-21 Vikings. The Saints would not be deterred. On 4th and 10, Brees converted on a pass to Willie Snead and that helped lead the Saints to a field goal that Will Lutz buried to make it 24-23 Saints with 25 seconds left. It didn’t look good. And then, somehow, someway, with 10 seconds left Keenum throws a nice pass to Stefon Diggs who makes the catch and Saints rookie cornerback Marcus Williams inexplicably whiffed on the tackle and Diggs had nothing but daylight. He kept his balance and raced into the endzone. As Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen said in his call on 100.3 KFAN, it was the Minneapolis Miracle. I really don’t remember what happened. What a surreal moment for the Vikings and their fans who have endured so much heartbreak in the past. Tremendous! Unbelievable. The Minneapolis Miracle. So sorry Saints fans. I guess I did go on and on about this game. Sorry not sorry.

Coming up later this week: AFC and NFC Championship game reaction plus other top stories in sports