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Saints vs. Vikings: wildcard weekend quick observations

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A stunning defeat in the Big Easy leads to an early exit for the Super Bowl favorites.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

For the third year in a row the Saints exit the playoffs earlier than expected and at the hands of the Vikings for the second time in three years.

The comeback nearly happened after Brees got the team into field goal range and Will Lutz hit the game tying 49-yard kick to force the game into overtime. However, the Vikings would march their way down field and crush the dreams of the Who-Dat Nation with a goal-line fade to Kyle Rudolph in the corner of the endzone.

Here are some quick, painful observations:

The “(n)o-line”

The “elite” offensive line the Saints boast looked hapless against the game plan the Vikings used to get pressure on Brees.

Mike Zimmer moved his best edge rushers inside on numerous plays to create favorable matchups against the Saint’s guards. Danielle Hunter cited the Saints’ lost against the Falcons as where the got their gameplan on how to pressure Brees.

The 40-year-old quarterback was sacked three times, hit seven, and faced pressure for most of the game. Much of this was due to solid coverage by the Vikings secondary, forcing Brees to hold on to the ball longer giving the rushers enough time to get to him.

Drew Brees’s long day

It wasn’t the game we’ve come to expect from the future Hall of Famer. The offensive line shares some of the blame, but Brees looked uncomfortable and out of sorts for the majority of the game. He forced throws into tight or double-coverage and ended up having one being picked off.

Late in the game, he also had his first lost fumble of the season when Hunter popped it out from behind on a drive that could have given the Saints the lead.

His final stat line for the day was 26 of 33 for 208 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and one fumble lost. With questions surrounding his contract/retirement status, it seems unlikely that Brees would want to go out with that as his final game.

Taysom Hill: X-Factor

What a day for the backup QB/WR/TE/RB. If it wasn’t for his efforts this game may not have even been as close. He was instrumental in multiple areas of the game, rather it be rushing, passing, catching or opening up running lanes as a blocker.

Brees’s lone touchdown came on a pass to Hill, where he was able to get behind the coverage when the Saints ran their four verts play:

The soon to be free agent ended his day with a respectable stat line of 50 pass yards, 50 rushing yards on 4 carries, and two receptions for 25 yards including the one touchdown.

Third downs, Dalvin Cook, and looking forward

The Saints were constantly behind the sticks and were forced into multiple long third down situations. For the day they only went 4-of-11 going against a defense that was missing two defensive backs.

The defense continued their streak of not giving up 100 yards to one rusher, although Dalvin Cook was just 6 yards away from that mark. The well rested third year running back looked unstoppable at times and broke numerous tackles.

The leaky run defense had to be one of the biggest surprises of this game, as the Saints’ front seven didn’t look at all like the top unit from the regular season.

This one hurts. Not like 2017 in Minneapolis where it was a heartbreak, and nothing like the travesty of the “No-Call” from last postseason, but after beating the odds that the team faced throughout the season this seemed like it just had to be “our year.”

However it wasn’t meant to be. The underdogs prevailed in this one and now the team faces another offseason that came too early that will feature the usual questions regarding the future of Brees and what players need to be resigned.