Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) gets tackled by Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye (24) and strong safety Duron Harmon (26) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins’ big day gets Vikings past Lions

Kirk Cousins passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-35 season-ending victory over the host Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Alexander Mattison rushed for 95 yards on 21 carries and also caught three passes for 50 yards and another score. Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 133 yards and set the NFL rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards on the season.

The Vikings (7-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, snapped a three-game losing streak. The Lions (5-11) finished their season with a four-game skid.

Matthew Stafford passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions. Marvin Jones Jr. caught eight passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Cousins threw three touchdown passes in the first half, lifting his club to a 21-16 lead.

Matt Prater’s 54-yard field goal midway through the second quarter gave Detroit a two-point lead before Cousins hit Chad Beebe on a 40-yard touchdown pass with four seconds remaining in the half. Beebe caught the ball near the 20 and two Detroit defenders collided, allowing him to break free.

Detroit regained the lead in the first minute of the second half. James Agnew’s 70-yard kick return set up Jones’ second touchdown reception, a 26-yarder after a defender slipped.

The Vikings got those points right back on their next possession. Mattison scored on a 2-yard run. A Harrison Smith interception set up a 23-yard Dan Bailey field goal to make it 31-23.

Detroit’s Adrian Peterson scored on a 2-yard run with 3:02 left in the third quarter. The two-point conversion try failed, leaving the Lions down by two points at 31-29.

A roughing the passer call on 4th-and-goal allowed the Vikings to score again. Cousins scored on a 1-yard sneak as the Vikings built a 37-29 lead. Bailey missed the extra point.

An apparent 38-yard touchdown reception by Jones was nullified after review, as Jones was deemed to have not maintained control when he landed.

D’Andre Swift eventually scored on the drive with a 2-yard run to pull within 37-35, but Stafford threw an incompletion on the two-point conversion try. Minnesota then ran out the clock.

–Field Level Media

Dec 25, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) gestures after picking up a first down against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Kamara scores 6 TDs as Saints clinch NFC South

Alvin Kamara tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns Friday as the host New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South title with a 52-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Kamara gained a career-high 155 rushing yards as he tied the touchdown record set by Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in 1929.

The Saints (11-4) clinched their fourth consecutive division title and eliminated the Vikings (6-9) from playoff contention.

Latavius Murray added 72 yards on the ground and the Saints rushed for 264 yards. Drew Brees passed for 311 yards despite two interceptions as New Orleans finished with 583 yards of total offense with 36 first downs.

Kirk Cousins passed for 291 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings, two of the scores to tight end Irv Smith Jr.

The Saints, who never trailed in the game, led by 10 points at halftime, but their first possession of the third quarter ended with Hardy Nickerson intercepting Brees and giving the Vikings the ball at the New Orleans 18. That set up Cousins’ two-yard touchdown pass to Smith, pulling Minnesota within 24-20.

Kamara ran six yards for his fourth touchdown to push the New Orleans advantage to 31-20, but before Cousins hit Smith for a 4-yard touchdown to trim the Saints’ lead back to four points at the end of the third quarter.

A 7-yard touchdown by Kamara extended the lead to 38-27 early in the fourth quarter, and Taysom Hill scored from a yard out to make it 45-27, removing doubt about the outcome. It was the only Saints touchdown scored by someone other than Kamara.

Cousins threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen to complete the scoring with 2:10 remaining.

Kamara capped the first possession of the game with a 40-yard touchdown run, and added a 1-yard score in the first quarter and a 5-yard touchdown run late in the half, giving the Saints their 24-14 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Dec 25, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) gestures after picking up a first down against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Kamara scores 6 TDs as Saints clinch NFC South

Alvin Kamara tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns Friday as the host New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South title with a 52-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Kamara gained a career-high 155 rushing yards as he tied the touchdown record set by Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in 1929.

The Saints (11-4) clinched their fourth consecutive division title and eliminated the Vikings (6-9) from playoff contention.

Latavius Murray added 72 yards on the ground and the Saints rushed for 264 yards. Drew Brees passed for 311 yards despite two interceptions as New Orleans finished with 583 yards of total offense with 36 first downs.

Kirk Cousins passed for 291 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings, two of the scores to tight end Irv Smith Jr.

The Saints, who never trailed in the game, led by 10 points at halftime, but their first possession of the third quarter ended with Hardy Nickerson intercepting Brees and giving the Vikings the ball at the New Orleans 18. That set up Cousins’ two-yard touchdown pass to Smith, pulling Minnesota within 24-20.

Kamara ran six yards for his fourth touchdown to push the New Orleans advantage to 31-20, but Cousins hit Smith for a 4-yard touchdown to trim the Saints’ lead back to four points at the end of the third quarter.

A 7-yard touchdown by Kamara extended the lead to 38-27 early in the fourth quarter, and Taysom Hill scored from a yard out to make it 45-27, removing doubt about the outcome. It was the only Saints touchdown scored by someone other than Kamara.

Cousins threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen with 2:10 remaining, but Kamara wasn’t finished and added his record-tying sixth rushing TD, from 3 yards out, with 1:50 left.

Kamara capped the first possession of the game with a 40-yard touchdown run, and added a 1-yard score in the first quarter and a 5-yard touchdown run late in the half, giving the Saints their 24-14 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Saints look for bounce-back win against Vikings

The New Orleans Saints are in the playoffs.

But they’ve lost two games in a row after winning nine straight. They have failed two weeks in a row to clinch the NFC South title. They have dropped from the No. 1 seed to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

And now they get a reminder of the disappointing end to last season as they host the Minnesota Vikings in the penultimate game of this season on Christmas afternoon.

It was 51 weeks ago that the Vikings went into the Superdome and upset the Saints 26-20 in a wild-card game.

“Last year, we were flat and we played poorly,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

New Orleans (10-4) is hardly panicking though. It’s still the No. 2 seed in the conference and can pass Green Bay with some help. It needs just one win or one Tampa Bay loss to clinch its fourth consecutive division title.

Nonetheless, Payton said, “this has got to be a bounce-back week.”

The Saints lost to Philadelphia two weeks ago to drop to 3-1 in the games that Drew Brees missed because of rib and lung injuries.

Brees returned last week and showed plenty of rust in the first half before finding some rhythm. Despite the slow start, the Saints stayed with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs before narrowly losing, 32-29.

“You want to be playing your best football going into the playoffs,” Brees said. “We understand that we’ve sealed a playoff spot. But, the most important factor right now is for us to win and win the division, and then, continue to kind of build on and ascend, going into the playoffs.”

New Orleans has lost back-to-back games for the first time since the first two games of the 2017 season, which also included a 29-19 loss to the Vikings.

“It’s been a long time since we lost back to back,” said safety CJ Gardner-Johnson, who was a sophomore at Florida when it last happened. “We’re not going to let that happen again.”

One thing the Saints likely don’t have to worry about happening again is a playoff game against Minnesota.

The Vikings (6-8) need to win their last two games and see Arizona lose its last two and Chicago lose at least once to qualify.

Minnesota’s injury-plagued defense had nine players on the injury report Tuesday, including star linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has missed the last three games because of a calf injury.

“I have seen some strides from the guys we’re playing with (on defense),” coach Mike Zimmer said.

The Vikings allowed the Bears’ David Montgomery to rush for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns last week in Chicago’s win.

With Brees less than 100 percent and All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas on injured reserve, New Orleans might be inclined to emphasize the run with Alvin Kamara and former Viking Latavius Murray.

Kamara has gained nearly 800 yards both rushing and receiving yards and has scored 15 touchdowns.

“We didn’t play very well against the run (against the Bears). We didn’t tackle very well,” Zimmer said. “Kamara’s obviously a great back. He’s got really, really good feet. He’s hard to tackle. They use him in more variety of ways. We’re just going to have to do a better job in some of the cutback and power runs than we did last week.”

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who had 132 yards and a touchdown against Chicago, and rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who had eight catches for 104 yards, were both Pro Bowl selections this week.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) is tackled in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Montgomery’s career day powers Chicago to win at Minnesota

David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns and Mitchell Trubisky had a passing touchdown and 236 yards of offense as the visiting Chicago Bears kept their NFC playoff hopes alive with a 33-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings 33-27 on Sunday afternoon.

Chicago (7-7) won for the second straight week on the heels of a six-game skid to pull within one half-game of the Arizona Cardinals for the final NFC wild card spot. The Vikings, who rallied after starting the season 1-5, fell to 6-8 as their playoff aspirations took a sizable hit with two weeks left in the regular season.

Minnesota, trailing 30-27, had an opportunity to capitalize on Cameron Dantzler’s interception of Trubisky in the end zone with 2:57 to go but turned the ball over on downs.

Bears kicker Cairo Santos closed the scoring with his fourth field goal of the afternoon, a 42-yarder with 56 seconds to play.

The Vikings drove to the Bears’ 33-yard line in the closing seconds, but Kirk Cousins’ Hail Mary in the end zone was tipped and intercepted by Sherrick McManus as time expired.

The Bears scored on six straight possessions before the Trubisky interception — excluding a kneel-down to end the first half — and took a 30-20 lead with 13:38 remaining on a 48-yard Santos field goal.

A 20-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Tyler Conklin brought Minnesota to within 30-27 with 8:05 to go.

Trubisky was 15-for-21 passing for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also had eight carries for 34 yards. Allen Robinson finished with four catches for 83 yards.

Cousins was 24-for-35 for 271 yards and two touchdowns for Minnesota. Dalvin Cook had 24 rushes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Justin Jefferson finished with eight receptions for 104 yards. Along the way, he snagged his 70th catch of the season to surpass Randy Moss’ previous franchise single-season rookie record.

Cook rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries before halftime, gaining the most yards on the ground against the Bears in any half this season. Still, one yard he didn’t make late in the second quarter proved pivotal.

With the Vikings trailing 17-7 with 5:52 to go before halftime, Minnesota tried running Cook up the middle on 4th-and-1 from its own 34-yard line. The Bears stopped him for no gain and capitalized with a 35-yard Santos field goal with 3:34 left in the second quarter.

Minnesota answered with a 24-yard Dan Bailey field goal with 26 seconds to go before halftime as the Bears took a 20-10 lead into intermission. Bailey overcame recent struggles to convert each of his two field goal attempts and all three extra points.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;Minnesota Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah (31) runs with the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Anthony Nelson (98) defends during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brady, Buccaneers rebound with win over Vikings

Taking advantage of a late bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerged refreshed Sunday and improved their playoff prospects with a 26-14 victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was 15 of 23 in the air for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including a momentum-changing 48-yard touchdown pass in the first half to Scotty Miller. Antonio Brown had five catches for 49 yards for Tampa Bay, while Ronald Jones II had 18 carries for 80 yards and a TD.

The Buccaneers (8-5) had lost three of four games before their bye but entered holding the No. 6 spot in the NFC’s playoff pecking order. The top seven teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who entered as the second leading rusher in the NFL had 102 yards on 22 carries, including his NFL-leading 14th touchdown. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was 24 of 37 for 225 yards and a touchdown as Minnesota lost for the second time in seven games.

The Vikings (6-7) dropped out of playoff eligibility with the loss and the Arizona Cardinals’ victory over the New York Giants.

The Buccaneers took control by reeling off 23 consecutive points from the middle of the second quarter through the first drive of the second half. The scoring outburst was capped by a 2-yard TD pass from Brady to Rob Grownkowski just under five minutes into the second half.

The Vikings pulled to within 23-14 on a 14-yard TD pass from Cousins to Irv Smith Jr. just before the start of the fourth quarter, but they were undone on the day by three missed field goals and a missed extra point by Dan Bailey.

The Vikings had 191 total yards in the first half but scored just once on Cook’s 1-yard run on the second play of the second quarter for a 6-0 lead.

The Buccaneers took over from there as Brady and Miller hooked up on their long TD pass over the middle for a 7-6 lead with 7:41 remaining before the half. After Bailey missed a 54-yard field goal attempt, the Buccaneers drove 56 yards, getting a 1-yard TD run from Jones for a 14-6 lead less than a minute before the half.

The Buccaneers added an 18-yard field goal from Ryan Succop for a 17-6 lead at halftime, with Succop also hitting from 48 yards with 5:20 remaining to cap the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with running back Ronald Jones (27) his touchdown scored against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers try to solidify hold on playoff spot vs. Vikings

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can bolster their NFC playoff chances with a win on Sunday over the visiting Minnesota Vikings, while Minnesota can help its own cause with a victory.

The Bucs (7-5) hold the sixth spot in the NFC while the Vikings (6-6) are clinging to the seventh and last spot, ahead of the Arizona Cardinals via tiebreaker. Tampa Bay limped into its bye last week with three losses in its last four games — two by three points each to the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs — but got the advantage of a late-season week off to rest and heal going into a home game.

That’s important time off for veteran quarterback Tom Brady, who has the Bucs in control of their own postseason destiny. But slow starts to games have hurt Tampa Bay of late. The Bucs been outscored 52-7 in the first quarter of the past four games.

“It was a good rest for (Brady), but also going back and looking at a lot of different things,” head coach Bruce Arians told the Tampa Bay Times. “Looking at the way this team plays and the way we’ve played teams like (the Vikings). It’s still a work in progress … but again, I feel very comfortable that everybody’s on the same page right now.”

Arians said Tuesday that the catalyst on offense is running back Ronald Jones, who he feels should get 20 touches in games. But the Bucs have had to battle back from big deficits, which makes it tough to run the ball with Jones as much as they’d like.

Jones is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 820 on 162 carries. He could figure larger in the offense if the Bucs are without wide receivers Chris Godwin (didn’t practice Wednesday, finger) and Mike Evans (limited, hamstring).

The Vikings’ Dalvin Cook is the No. 2 rusher in the league (251 carries, 1,250 yards) and the leader in rushing touchdowns with 13. He had 38 touches (32 rushes, 6 catches) in Minnesota’s 27-24 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

The Vikings have won five of their last six games to get into playoff position, with Cook averaging more than 30 touches per game in that span.

“I feel good. I’ve got a good system that I’ve got set up for me to get ready to go on Sundays. That starts right after the game,” Cook told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Wednesday. “The clock starts to get my body ready to go for the next Sunday. I’m here to do whatever my team asks upon me. If it’s 38, 40, 44 (touches), whatever it is, I’m willing to do it. I’m just going to keep fighting, keep chipping away with my teammates and having fun. That’s what this thing is about.”

Cook will face the Buccaneers’ run defense, which is allowing just 3.3 yards per carry and 74.2 rush yards per game. Both are No. 1 in the league.

The Vikings have a tough road to get into the playoffs, with their four remaining opponents combining for a 27-21 record, including the New Orleans Saints (10-2), who visit the Vikings on Christmas Day.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mike Glennon (2) throws a touchdown pass during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings’ rally sends Jaguars to 11th straight loss

Dan Bailey kicked a game-winning, 23-yard field goal with 1:53 remaining in overtime and Kirk Cousins passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns as the host Minnesota Vikings defeated the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-24, on Sunday for their fifth win in six games.

Jaguars quarterback Mike Glennon threw two interceptions, fumbled and was sacked in the end zone for a safety in Jacksonville’s franchise-record 11th straight loss. Vikings safety Harrison Smith snagged Glennon’s second interception inside Jaguars territory to set up Bailey’s game-winning kick.

Justin Jefferson had nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings, who outgained the Jaguars 420-390. Dalvin Cook overcame a slow start to finish with 32 carries for 120yards.

Minnesota (6-6) remained in the NFC playoff hunt by regrouping after the Jaguars took a 16-6 lead early in the third quarter, their largest advantage of the season. The Vikings scored 18 consecutive points to take a 24-16 lead with 3:55 to go, but the Jaguars (1-11) rallied to tie the game with 1:08 to go on James Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion pass from Glennon to Collin Johnson.

Moments after Bailey missed a 51-yard field goal that would have put Minnesota ahead with 13 seconds to go, Jaguars placekicker Chase McLaughlin, who was on the Vikings’ practice squad this season, was short on a 62-yard field goal attempt as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

Cousins was 28-of-43 passing for 305 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble. Glennon was 28-of-42 passing for 280 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while Robinson had 18 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Jacksonville added quickly to its three-point halftime lead, as linebacker Joe Schobert snagged a Cousins screen pass and raced 43 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown with 14:50 remaining in the third quarter. It marked the second successive week the Vikings have allowed a defensive touchdown on the first play of the second half.

–Field Level Media