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1 Up, 3 Downs from the Saints wild card defeat

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Unlike the playoff losses in year’s past, the Saints did not deserve to win.

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The New Orleans Saints stellar season has come to an end in disappointing fashion. The Saints did not show up for the majority of the playoff game’s first three quarters and lost in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings 26-20.

On the game’s final play, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph fully extended his arm against cornerback P.J. Williams before catching the ball for the game-winning touchdown. The refs did not officially review the play for offensive pass interference and called game.

Many watching the game, including former referee Terry McAulay, who was a NFL referee for 20 years and was the referee for Super Bowl XXXIX, XLIII and XLVIII, believed Rudolph should have been flagged for offensive pass interference.

Regardless of the call, the Saints should not have been in the predicament in the first place. Coming into the game, the Saints were the better team with home field advantage, and they let opportunity slide.

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

Up: Taysom Hill

Taysom Hill did everything he possibly could to bring the Saints to victory. Hill was the lead blocker on Kamara’s rushing touchdown, and rushed for 50 yards, threw for 50 yards, and caught two targets for 25 yards and a touchdown in the game.

Hill had huge plays rushing, receiving and throwing the football. On his only throw of the game, he found Deonte Harris for a 50 yard catch that put the Saints in the redzone.

Hill was a receiving threat as well, catching the 20-yard touchdown grab that brought the Saints within a field goal.

As if he wasn’t good enough at throwing and receiving. Hill was a beast in the backfield, powering through contact to get first down after first down. His most notable rush came on a 28-yard run in the 4th quarter that brought the Saints into field goal range to force the game into overtime.

In a game where there weren’t many bright spots for the Saints, Taysom Hill shined the brightest.

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

Down: Drew Brees

It’s hard to imagine Drew Brees being a negative for the Saints, but he was just that against the Vikings.

Brees was accurate throwing the football, completing 26 of his 33 passes and had one touchdown during the game however, had it not been for his turnovers, the game’s outcome may have been different.

Late in the second quarter, Brees had a chance to run down the clock to the two minute warning on 3rd & 7. Instead, he threw the ball downfield into double coverage, intercepted by Anthony Harris.

Following Taysom Hill’s big run in the fourth quarter, the Saints were in scoring range. On 1st down Brees, under pressure, was smothered by Danielle Hunter. Instead of taking the sack, he tried to force a throw when no one was in range and fumbled away possession and a chance at scoring. Had the Saints ended that drive in a field goal, Will Lutz’s game tying field goal with two seconds left in the fourth may have been a game-winning field goal.

Brees, known for being a clutch performer, was very much the opposite and showed his age in the loss.

The Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints in overtime in a Wild Card game Photo by Elizabeth Flores /Star Tribune via Getty Images

Down: Offensive Line

In Brees’s defense, it seemed like he had no protection from his offensive line all game long. The offensive line allowed pressure on number nine all game long, allowing three sacks for 31 yards and six QB hits. Saints running backs Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara did not have a good game for the Saints, but it didn’t help that the offensive line was getting overpowered on run plays. The Vikings had six tackles for a loss of yards in the game.

Guard Andrus Peat was getting beat all game long. His fellow guard Larry Warford wasn’t much better either. Even All-pro Ryan Ramcyzk couldn’t save the Saints. On the fourth quarter play where Brees fumbled, Ramcyzk was embarrassed by Danielle Hunter who went inside on the Saints tackle before bodying Warford en route to forcing the fumble.

The Saints had the 4th highest rated offensive line in the regular season, and they were no where to be found in the playoffs. Changes need to be made in the offseason, especially at guard.

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Down: Cornerbacks

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins shredded the Saints defensive backs for 242 yards and a touchdown on 19 completions out of 31 targets. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had himself a game running wide and the Saints needed multiple players to take him down. All game, left and right, Saints corners were getting burned.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore looked lost out on the field, allowing reception after reception and missing a few key tackles. Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen was open for most of the game, finishing off with 7 receptions for 129 yards. His 43 yard reception in overtime, where he burned cornerback Patrick Robinson, brought the Vikings within yards of victory and set up Kyle Rudolph’s winning catch. P.J. Williams was not good in coverage either. Despite Stefon Diggs barely being targeted ( 2 receptions on 3 targets for 19 yards) the Vikings still had options all game long. Going forward if the Saints plan on contending next season, the team will need consistent depth at cornerback.