Cousins comes up big to lift Vikings over Saints in OT

For all the angst about Kirk Cousins coming up small in big moments, he made two great passes on Sunday to knock the New Orleans Saints out of the playoffs.

Cousins didn’t do much against the Saints, and the game plan seemed to want to hide him a bit. But in overtime, Cousins made a tremendous 43-yard pass to Adam Thielen to get the Vikings down to the goal line and then hit Kyle Rudolph on a third-down touchdown to lead the Vikings to a huge 26-20 wild-card playoff upset over the Saints. The Vikings move on to face the San Francisco 49ers next week.

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The Vikings came to the Superdome and had the game plan to beat the Vikings. They controlled the game on the ground, kept the Saints offense off the field, and didn’t let playmakers Michael Thomas or Alvin Kamara beat them. The Vikings coughed up a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter, allowing the New Orleans Saints to send the game to overtime.

They were on the ropes and Cousins — yes, the oft-criticized Cousins — saved the Vikings.

“Kirk can’t win big games apparently,” Rudolph told Fox after the game. “I think we proved that wrong today.”

Vikings shut down the Saints

The Saints were bad for most of the game on offense. They had just 25 yards in the first quarter. The only sign of life in the first three quarters was a pass from Taysom Hill, the Swiss Army knife of the Saints offense, throwing deep to kick returner Deonte Harris. Not exactly how New Orleans drew it up during the week.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who has had his job security questioned this week, had a great game. Minnesota got a good pass rush, often by moving their best rushers around. They were able to diagnose some of the attempts by the Saints to get Kamara in space. Thomas, at the end of a season in which he broke a record for receptions, wasn’t much of a factor.

The Vikings were confident in their game plan, which was practically to run the ball, limit Cousins and play defense. You have to execute that perfectly against a Saints offense that was on fire for the final stretch of the season, and the Vikings did just that. And still, the Saints found a way to send it to overtime.

Vikings come up big in OT

Minnesota controlled most of the game but the Saints were able to tie it in the fourth quarter.

The Saints got on the board with Hill catching a touchdown pass from Brees early in the fourth quarter. That cut the Vikings’ lead to 20-17. Hill gave the Saints a much-needed spark, whether it was as a blocker, pass catcher, runner out of the quarterback spot or throwing the ball.

Brees fumbled with the Saints in field goal range in the final minutes, but the Saints defense got him the ball back. Brees started marching the Saints downfield in the final two minutes. Jared Cook bulled his way ahead for a first down into field-goal range. Wil Lutz, who missed a 43-yard attempt at the end of the first half, came on with seven seconds left and hit a 49-yard field goal to tie it. There was overtime for the second time in the NFL’s first three postseason games.

Cousins, who has never won a Monday night game and has been ripped incessantly since signing his $84 million contract with the Vikings for not playing well against the best competition since signing his $84 million contract, got the first shot in overtime. When Saints cormerback Marshon Lattimore was knocked out of the game briefly, Cousins went right to Thielen and completed a pass to him to the 2-yard line. Two runs went nowhere, but a nice throw to the end zone to Rudolph ended the game. Cousins recognized the blitz, and threw an accurate throw that only Rudolph had a shot to catch. He pulled it down for a 4-yard score and the Vikings had a huge win.

Cousins and the Vikings move on in the playoffs, with a little less noise about their ability in big games.

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Kirk Cousins through his career
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Kirk Cousins through his career
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 22: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings takes a snap during the pregame warm ups against the Oakland Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Oakland Raiders 34-14. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - SEPTEMBER 08: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on after the game against the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Falcons 28-12. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 29: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 15: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 15: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 15, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 29: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the football in game action during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on September 29, 2019 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 29: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks on after a play in game action during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on September 29, 2019 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins warms up before a game against the New York Giants at FedExField on November 23, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 12: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans talks to coaches on the sideline against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Spartan Stadium on September 12, 2009 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Chippewas defeated the Spartans 29-27. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 05: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans warms up prior to the start of the game against the Montana State Bobcats on September 5, 2009 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING,MI - CIRCA 2011: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans poses for a portrait in 2011 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Michigan State Spartans/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
12 JAN 2012: Education Session entitled Students First: Giving Student-Athletes the College Experience They Deserve held at the JW Marriott and Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. Joshua Duplechian/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.Pictured: Kirk Cousins
ASHBURN, VA - MAY 06: Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins throws a pass during the Washington Redskins rookie minicamp on May 6, 2012 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
ASHBURN, VA - MAY 06: Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins speaks to members of the media after a practice during the Washington Redskins rookie minicamp on May 6, 2012 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 26: Quarterback Kirk Cousins of Michigan State looks on during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 07: Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III #10 (L) and Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins take the field before playing the Atlanta Falcons at FedExField on October 7, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Dec 15, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (12) throws a pass in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 14, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs off the filed after the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 41-10. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks for a receiver against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates after a touchdown by Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the first half in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) on the sidelines against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Redskins 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) joins his teammates and members of the United States Armed Forces in holding a giant american flag during the national anthem prior to the Redskins' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates with fans after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) stands in the pocket in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
September 17, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws as offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) blocks Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) locks arms with teammates during the national anthem before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates after a touchdown in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during an NFL football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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