Brett Duke/Associated Press
The New Orleans Saints are NFC South champions for a fourth straight season.
New Orleans clinched the division title thanks to a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Vikings are now not only mathematically eliminated from playoff contention but also guarantee themselves their first losing season since 2014. Missing the postseason for the second time in three years is a bitter pill to swallow for a franchise that was one game away from the Super Bowl in 2017.
Alvin Kamara tied the record for rushing touchdowns, finding the end zone six times and outscoring the Vikings on his own en route to a career game.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: 19-of-26, 311 yards, two interceptions
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints: 22 carries, 155 yards, six touchdowns; three receptions, 17 yards
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Saints: four receptions, 83 yards
Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: 27-of-41, 291 yards, three touchdowns
Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings: eight receptions, 97 yards, one touchdown
Irv Smith Jr., TE, Vikings: six receptions, 53 yards, two touchdowns
Kamara Becomes the Hardest-Working Person on Christmas
Depending on your perspective, Kamara was either Santa Claus or played the role of the Grinch for fantasy football managers on Christmas.
It’s hard to say anything about his performance that isn’t immediately apparent upon looking at his final numbers. The Saints were without two of their best receivers, Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith, but that didn’t matter because Kamara carved up a Vikings defense that has struggled against the run all season.
[email protected]_kamara6 was definitely on the nice list.
FOURTH TOUCHDOWN OF THE DAY! 😱 @Saints #Saints
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On the whole, Kamara has been a somewhat disappointing fantasy performer. Drew Brees’ absence didn’t help matters. The four-time Pro Bowl running back made up for it Friday.
Saints fans had plenty to rejoice about this Christmas, but Brees will be a point of concern with the focus slowly starting to shift to the playoffs.
The 41-year-old is starting to show his age, and it could become far more costly when Kamara isn’t having a day for the history books.
Maybe Brees has just enough left for one more Super Bowl run to end his career on a high note.
Vikings Left to Pick up the Pieces
The Vikings continued to hang around until the fourth quarter. Irv Smith Jr.’s four-yard touchdown reception with 22 seconds left in the third quarter made it a four-point game, 31-27. A one-yard touchdown grab by Adam Thielen came far too late (2:15 remaining) to make a difference.
Minnesota’s inability to string together any stops on defense was too much to bear in the final frame.
As a result, a pretty good performance by Kirk Cousins got wasted. Cousins avoided any critical mistakes while consistently finding Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
[email protected]_ gets a second helping! @Vikings #Skol
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The planning is probably already underway, but Minnesota’s front office should start looking ahead to 2021 with a losing record set in stone.
Cousins was supposed to be the last piece to bring a championship-caliber roster to completion. Instead, the Vikings find themselves even further back from that level. Nobody who watched this team all season will be too surprised with how poorly Friday played out.
Even with the assumption a young defense should improve with more experience, there will almost certainly be big offseason changes in response to this year.
The Saints and Vikings both wrap up their season Jan. 3, with kickoff for their respective games scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. New Orleans takes on the Carolina Panthers, while Minnesota meets the Detroit Lions.