Saints Vikings Football

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) celebrates following a 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints in an NFL divisional football playoff game in Minneapolis, Sunday, Jan. 14.

I’ve done some math and am guessing that I’ve watched around 500 Minnesota Viking football games.

I’ve been a Vikings’ fan since I was around five or six years old. I’m going to be 49 on the day after Super Bowl LII.

Estimating conservatively, I’ve averaged watching at least 12 games a year for 43 years and that comes out to 516 Vikings games.

And before Sunday, I’ve never witnessed a finish that even comes close to the ending of the Vikings/Saints NFC Divisional Playoff game.

I take that back.

I’ve never watched a finish that came out in the Vikings’ favor like the one before Sunday’s 29-24 miracle finish at U.S. Bank Stadium – a win that pushed the Vikings into the upcoming NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

As Purple fans of all ages know, the Vikings have been through their share of heartache.

About once a decade, the Vikings and fans of the purple and gold get their heart ripped out.

In the 1970s, it was the Dallas Cowboys that started the history of what some like to call a curse.

In the 1980s, they lost a heartbreaker to the Washington Redskins that would have sent the Purple to their fifth Super Bowl.

In the 1998 season, the 15-1 Vikings fell to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game in devastating fashion.

In the 2009 season, the Saints cruelly took out the Vikings in the game before the big game.

Two years ago, it was Blair Walsh missing a chip shot against the Seattle Seahawks in the opening round of the playoffs.

And then Sunday happened. And all the devastating defeats of year’s past suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

Stefon Diggs hauled in a last-ditch pass from Case Keenum and raced to the end zone as time ran out sending the Vikings and their passionate fan base into delirium.

My favorite interview I saw after the game was the one on ESPN by the Vikings’ standout defensive end Everson Griffen.

He couldn’t believe what happened. He couldn’t describe what he just saw and was almost speechless.

He was exactly like all of us fans.

Griffen’s words were almost to a T like the three phone conversations I had after the game with my son Aaron, my girlfriend Susan and my sister Jill.

“Oh my gosh …”

“Did that just happen?”

“Can you believe it?”

“That’s unbelievable … Oh my gosh … I’m speechless …”

Seconds before, I sat on the same couch that I watched most of the first 16 games of the Vikings’ 2017 season in disbelief.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m the eternal optimist and think my team can win any game under any circumstance.

But 61 yards away from paydirt, no timeouts, 10 seconds on the clock, trailing by one, even my hopes were quickly diminishing.

The following thoughts were going through my head:

“How could the Vikings blow a 17-point lead?”

“Now we have to hear all about the greatness of Drew Brees.”

“Man, it’s going to be a long off-season.”

“I don’t think I can watch next week’s conference championship games.”

And then Keenum to Diggs happened. And I’m still stunned.

Skol Vikings!

-- Kirk Hardcastle is the sports information director at NIACC and is a former Globe Gazette sports writer

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