MINNEAPOLIS - Nine months after the "Minnesota Miracle," the New Orleans Saints are returning to U.S. Bank Stadium.
Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught the dramatic winning pass in a playoff game in January, figures the Saints will come in Sunday night, Oct. 28, with a "chip on their shoulder." New Orleans coach Sean Payton doesn't see it that way.
"The revenge factor might be one of the most overrated (factors)," Payton said Monday, Oct. 22. "That was a whole different team a year ago and a whole different game. ... It was a hard-fought game with a tough finish to it. ... It wasn't like there was bad blood when the game was over with or anything like that. ... Two teams fought hard, and they (Vikings) made a play at the end that ended up costing us the game."
The Vikings won 29-24 on Case Keenum's 61-yard touchdown pass to Diggs on the final play of the game. New Orleans cornerback Marcus Williams whiffed on a tackle, allowing Diggs to run untouched down the right sideline.
"There is always going to be that taste in your mouth from that last game, because that was a wild one," Saints guard Larry Warford said. "There was so much at stake on that game, and the way it ended just left a bad taste in our mouth. We are all going to have that feeling, but at the same time we aren't going to approach it any different than we do all our games."
Diggs had said after the Vikings' 37-17 victory Sunday, Oct. 21, over the New York Jets he expects the Saints to be fired up about last year's game.
"We're going to get their best shot," he said. "They're coming in with a chip on their shoulder, and we need to have that same chip. We're just going to fight it out."
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, though, figures it will be business as usual for the Saints (5-1), who lead the NFC South with the second-best record in the conference. The Vikings (4-2-1) lead the NFC North.
"I think the Saints will come in with a chip on their shoulder because that's who they are," Zimmer said. "They're very aggressive on defense. They're aggressive offensively. They've got a good football team. That (playoff game) was a long time ago."
The Vikings led the NFL last year by allowing foes to convert just 25.2 percent of their third-down attempts. This season, they've been even better.
The Vikings have a third-down defensive percentage of 23.4. The Vikings held the Jets to two of 13 on third-down conversions (15.4 percent) and at one point in the game had an overall streak of stopping opponents on third down 20 straight times.
Zimmer said third-down statistics are misleading about how a defense is playing.
"The worst thing we've been doing defensively is first and second down," Zimmer said. "We haven't been very good there. Recently we've been better. ... We've been working real hard on first and second down in the last few weeks. ... We change up some calls here or there every week and try to figure out what's the best way to stop them, and guys have executed."
The Vikings entered Monday 11th in the NFL in total defense and 14th in scoring defense. Last season, they were first in both categories.
Zimmer lauds Brees
Over the past two games, the Vikings ran into rookie quarterbacks Josh Rosen of Arizona and Sam Darnold of the Jets. Now, they get to see Drew Brees, the NFL career leader in passing yards.
"Different than it has been the last two weeks," Zimmer said. "This guy's amazing. I always thought when you talk about hall of fame quarterbacks, obviously he's going to be one, but he's very cerebral, accurate. He's moving well in the pocket. I was watching tape (Monday) on him like, 'How old is this guy?' I thought he was getting old, but he moves well in the pocket."
Brees will be 40 in January.
"He should retire," Zimmer joked.