Vikings' Mike Zimmer was long gone when Case Keenum ended game on a knee
MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn't see the final play of the miraculous victory on Sunday, Jan. 14. He already was in his office celebrating.
The Vikings beat New Orleans 29-24 in a divisional playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium when Case Keenum completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs as the clock ticked down to 0:00.
After fans spilled onto the field and interviews were well underway, officials had the teams line up for the extra point, as required by league rules, and Keenum took the snap and then took a knee.
"I actually didn't see the extra point because I was in my office in the locker room," Zimmer said Monday, Jan. 15. "I was already sitting there. (Public relations director Bob) Hagan was the most excited guy in the building, I think. He came into my office and gave me a bunch of fist pumps."
Zimmer soon heard from plenty of other very excited people.
"I got an awful lot of texts," he said. "I don't know how many, but an awful lot of people that were really happy, Minnesotans that were really, really happy about how this thing went down. When I got home, I happened to turn the TV on, you see all of the fans at the Wild game going crazy, and somebody told me (also) at the (Timberwolves) game. It was pretty cool. I'm glad we can give them something good to cheer about."
Offensive line shifts
Zimmer shook up his offensive line against the Saints.
Mike Remmers, who played right tackle most of the season, shifted to left guard, and Rashod Hill was the right tackle. The rest of the linemen — left tackle Riley Reiff, center Pat Elflein and right guard Joe Berger — were at their usual positions.
After left guard Nick Easton broke his left ankle Dec. 23 at Green Bay, Jeremiah Sirles started the Dec. 31 regular-season finale against Chicago. Elflein missed that game with a shoulder injury, so Berger moved to center with Remmers at right guard and Hill at right tackle.
"I thought he was the best player," Zimmer said of playing Remmers at left guard Sunday. "Then I asked him about how he would feel about going on the left. He said, 'great' "
Keenum was sacked twice, but the pass protection generally was good. The running game wasn't spectacular, with the Vikings gaining 95 yards on 29 carries for an average of 3.3 yards a carry.
The Vikings are expected to use the same offensive line configuration in Sunday's NFC championship game at Philadelphia.
"I think that worked out real well," Hill said. "We had a couple of mistakes. We'll work to correct those and minimize the mistakes in the next game."
Backup QB uncertain
Sam Bradford served as the backup quarterback Sunday while Teddy Bridgewater was inactive. Zimmer declined to say if that will be the case against the Eagles.
"I don't know," Zimmer said. "I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I'm just trying to finish up the things (from Sunday's game) that we had to do, then start getting going on Philadelphia, and we'll worry about that later on."
Bradford played for the Eagles in 2015. He returned to Philadelphia for an Oct. 23, 2016, game, completing 24 of 41 passes for 224 yards with one touchdown and an interception in the Vikings' 21-10 loss.
A ring for Newman?
The NFL's two oldest defensive players will take the field Sunday.
James Harrison, 39, is a linebacker for New England, which plays host to Jacksonville in the AFC championship game. And Terence Newman, who at 39 is four months younger than Harrison, is a Vikings cornerback.
It will mark the first championship game for Newman in his 15-year NFL career. He talked last spring about coming back this season for a chance to win a Super Bowl ring.
"Oh, man," said Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes. "T-Newman, he's going strong. ... I thought he was 45. I mean, a guy like that, man, you want to keep striving, to keep fighting, to keep playing, and you want to put him in a situation ... to get a ring if he does call it quits (after this season)."