Minnesota Vikings players still in shock after stunning last-second victory over New Orleans Saints
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adam Thielen was drained mentally, physically and emotionally.
Being on the field for one of the greatest plays in Minnesota Vikings history and seeing the replay hundreds of times of Case Keenum‘s 61-yard pass to Stefon Diggs for the first walk-off finish ever to an NFL postseason game, the receiver needed more than just a moment to process what he had witnessed.
Not even 24 hours after the catch that catapulted the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game at the last possible second, the shock factor hadn’t completely worn off for Thielen and his teammates.
“That game took a lot out of me,” Thielen said. “I was just ready to go lay down and not move and hang out with the family. That’s what I did. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep but laid in bed and thought about the game and all that.”
One would have thought the Vikings were on the receiving end of a loss by the amount of responses that centered on the temporary insomnia caused by the play.
“We just still can’t believe it in the locker room, honestly,” Thielen said. “I woke up [Monday] morning and made sure that it wasn’t a dream and made sure it was a real deal.”
As Diggs corralled Keenum’s pass, caught his balance and sprinted toward the end zone with the final seconds of the game ticking off the clock, Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes shared Thielen’s reaction, frantically checking his surroundings to make sure everything that was playing out wasn’t a façade. When he went home later that night, all he could do was rewatch the play again and again to confirm what he already knew.
This wasn’t a dream.
“I went home and watched it on ESPN and I kept rewinding it about a thousand times,” Rhodes said. “It was unbelievable.”
As the Vikings began initial preparations for Sunday’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, the 24-hour rule was in place. Many players — including Diggs, who made a brief cameo in the locker room — said they had moved past the euphoric high of the moment and were already thinking about their next game.
That didn’t mean they couldn’t appreciate the moment and reflect upon the unthinkable they had achieved as a team.
Cayleb Jones, a practice squad receiver, was the first player to reach Diggs in the end zone, wrapping his arms around his side before being mobbed by their teammates.
“I was so happy for him, I was so happy for everybody,” Jones said. “He saved the day. That’s family.”
The Vikings’ come-from-behind win was the hottest topic in sports at the dawn of the new week. It led every highlight package on TV, was debated on sports talk radio shows across the country, and had fans flocking to newsstands to pick up commemorative copies of Monday’s papers.
Even in the time the Vikings have had to process what they were a part of, the moment still didn’t feel real. The magnitude of the play isn’t lost on these players, but it’s also something that’s hard to grasp with it being so fresh.
“I don’t think it’s still really sunk in as far as like what something like that’s going to be,” guard Jeremiah Sirles said. “That’s the stuff that in 20 years, you turn on NFL Films and it’s going to be the 2018 NFL Classic. Something like that that you can’t take away from any player that’s in this room right now. We’ll always be a part of something that happened that was super special like that.”