New Orleans battled back from a 17-point halftime deficit to take the lead on two separate occasions in the final three minutes against the Vikings in their divisional round clash. The final Saints lead change came with 25 seconds left when kicker Will Lutz booted a 43-yard field goal through the uprights, seemingly sending the Saints to Philadelphia.
But on the ensuing Vikings drive, Case Keenum's miraculous touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs gave Minnesota the victory and the berth in the NFC title game. Blame for the 61-yard catch-and-run fell partly on the shoulders of Saints rookie defensive back Marcus Williams, who whiffed on an easy tackle of Diggs, allowing the wideout to land unchallenged and to scamper into the end zone untouched.
Williams was apologetic in the locker room after the game, telling reporters, "That's on me. I gotta be that guy and go up and get the ball. As a safety back there, you gotta be the eraser. That was my job. I've played the game, you gotta go do it. And you gotta save the game."
The safety continued, "I mean, I'm going to take it upon myself to do all I can to never let that happen again. And if it happens again, I should not be playing. But I'm going to take it upon myself to do all I can to make sure nothing like this happens again to me." The rookie had a stellar first season and a tide-turning interception earlier in the half, but will be remembered in this game for letting Diggs slip through his grasp.
Lost in the bedlam that followed is that New Orleans had to attempt an all-time comeback to even set up Diggs' magical moment -- and nearly completed it. Brees led the Saints on four second-half scoring drives in five attempts, and if not for Keenum's heave, Diggs' grab and Williams' gaffe, would have been the hero.
While the 39-year-old Brees intimated that he wants to return and attempt another great postseason run, the veteran QB was well aware that his team, and his defense, let a golden opportunity to reach the Super Bowl slip away.
"We scored on every drive. It's hard to do that on the road, playoffs, against this team, that defense, the No. 1 defense in football right there," Brees said. "So I can't say enough about our guys and the resolve of our team, just to battle back after being down 17-0.
"It really felt like we should've won that game."