Costly turnovers sink Vikings in 30-20 loss to Saints: Fumble overshadows Thielen’s record-setting game
MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen have carried the Vikings offense all season.
They were doomed, though, on Sunday when both committed a costly turnover.
In a 30-20 loss to New Orleans at U.S. Bank Stadium, Thielen lost a fumble late in the second quarter that was returned 54 yards, and Cousins threw an interception that was returned for a Saints touchdown early in the third quarter.
The game was a rematch of the Minnesota Miracle, and that pumped up the fans even more. A replay was shown on the jumbotron just before the opening kickoff of Stefon Diggs’ dramatic 61-yard touchdown on the last play that gave the Vikings a 29-24 playoff win over the Saints last January.
The fans were just as loud late in the first half when the Vikings led 13-10 and had first-and-10 at the New Orleans 18. However, they soon got very silent.
Thielen, leading the NFL in catches and receiving yardage, caught a pass for four yards before a fumble. It was scooped up by Saints cornerback Marcus Lattimore, who ran 54 yards to the Minnesota 33.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell moved the ball to the 18. Two plays later, the Saints scored on a 1-yard run by Alvin Kamara to take a 17-13 lead at halftime.
It was a lead the Saints never lost. Trailing 20-13, Cousins threw a interception into the hands of cornerback P.J. Williams, who ran 45 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown and a 27-13 lead with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
It was just the fourth lost fumble for Thielen in his five-year career. It overshadowed Thielen, who had seven catches for 103 yards, breaking Charlie Hennigan’s 1961 NFL record for most 100-yard games to start a season. He now has eight, which tied the record set by Detroit’s Calvin Johnson for most overall 100-yard games.
“Holding a record for 57 years in this league is not too shabby,’’ said Taylor Hennigan, whose father died last year. “Congrats to Thielen where it is due.’’
Cousins threw just his fourth interception of the season. The pass was intended for Diggs, who appeared to stop while running his route, enabling Williams to pick it off.
Cousins’ turnover came not long after he had been ruled to have lost a fumble at his own 17 on a sack midway through the third quarter. However, the call was reversed after it was determined that the Vikings quarterback was down by contact.
The Vikings dropped to 4-3-1 and fell out of first place in the NFC North, just behind Chicago (4-3). If Minnesota wins the division, it would be difficult, though, to catch the Los Angeles Rams (8-0) and the Saints (6-1) for one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye.
Cousins completed 31 of 41 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs caught 10 passes for 119 yards.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn’t need to throw that much thanks to the two big defensive plays. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 120 yards with a touchdown and his first interception of the season, a pick by Harrison Smith.
The Vikings played without six injured starters. Four had been ruled out Friday in linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring), running back Dalvin Cook (hamstring), guard Tom Compton (knee) and safety Andrew Sendejo (groin). Ruled out before the game were cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle), who had been listed as questionable, and tackle Riley Reiff (foot), who had been listed as doubtful.