New Orleans • After tight end Kyle Rudolph emerged from a purple swarm of celebrating Vikings near the corner of the end zone, he took an opportunity to mock those who doubted quarterback Kirk Cousins’ ability to come through in the clutch.
“I’m just glad Kirk can’t win big games, apparently,” Rudolph said. “We proved that one wrong today.”
Cousins hit Rudolph with a 4-yard fade on third-and-goal in overtime, and the Minnesota Vikings pulled out a 26-20 victory over the favored Saints in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs on Sunday.
Cousins lost his only previous playoff start in 2015 with Washington, came up short of a playoff berth on the final regular-season game a year ago and struggled in a handful of other high-profile regular-season night games.
Yet Cousins eschewed an opportunity to gloat after his pass to Rudolph — and a 43-yarder to Adam Thielen at the Saints 2-yard line three plays earlier — helped the Vikings (11-6) advance to play top seed San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs on Saturday. It was Minnesota’s first road playoff win since Jan. 9, 2005, when the Vikings beat the rival Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round.
“I’m just happy we won,” Cousins said. “It was a great, great game, two good football teams.”
Saints fans begged to differ after seeing New Orleans’ season end in overtime in the Superdome for a second straight year.
The latest disappointing end for the Saints (13-4) came nearly a year after New Orleans lost in the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams in a game marred by missed Rams penalties late in regulation. This time, replays on video boards showed a possible push-off by Rudolph against defensive back P.J. Williams moments before he jumped to snag the winning catch.
NFL president of officiating Al Riveron said the league reviewed numerous replay angles, and while they saw contact by both players, “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said the Vikings “deserved to win.”
Dalvin Cook gained 130 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns after missing the last two regular-season games with a shoulder injury. Cousins finished with 242 yards and one TD passing.
“Being a fourth-round pick and kind of working your way up in the league — now you win a playoff game. Guess what? You look around and you realize there’s more mountains to climb,” Cousins said. “You just keep chasing the next mountain and there will always be people who are going to criticize you — and that’s OK.”
New Orleans trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter but forced overtime with Drew Brees’ 20-yard touchdown pass to Taysom Hill and Wil Lutz’s 49-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
“They made more plays than we did,” Payton said. “They ran the ball better than we did.“
Hill was the Saints’ leading rusher with 50 yards and Alvin Kamara was held to 21 yards rushing on seven carries.
“Both defenses played well,” Payton added. “Shoot, here you are in overtime and they made a few plays right there at the end that obviously were significant.”
Seahawks 17, Eagles 9
Philadelphia • Jadeveon Clowney knocked out Carson Wentz. Then, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wilson threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf, Marshawn Lynch had a rushing score and the Seahawks beat the Eagles 17-9 in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs on Sunday night.
“To come back here, back East, it’s a long ways, we were able to do it, pull through,“ Wilson said. “We’ve been road warriors and it’s exciting. We’ve got a great defense, too.”
Making his first career playoff start, Wentz lasted two series before exiting with a head injury following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Clowney.
Nick Foles wasn’t around to rescue Philadelphia this time.
“I didn’t intend to hurt him. I hope he’s OK,” Clowney said.
Referee Shawn Smith told a pool reporter: “He was a runner and he did not give himself up. We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgment, we didn’t rule it a foul.”
Forty-year-old Josh McCown stepped in, becoming the oldest quarterback to make his playoff debut. But he couldn’t lead the Eagles (9-8) into the end zone.
“I didn’t get the job done,” said McCown, who was quite emotional on the field afterward.
The Seahawks (12-5) lost three of their final four games, including a 26-21 defeat at home against San Francisco in Week 17 that cost them the NFC West title.
But they traveled to Philadelphia for the second time in six weeks and became the third team to win on the road this weekend, improving to 8-1 away from home this season.
Wilson threw for 325 yards and led the team with 45 yards rushing. Metcalf had seven catches for 160 yards.
The Seahawks had a season-high seven sacks from six players.
“We made up our mind to not let them score,” All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “It was a mental thing more than execution.”
Wilson drove Seattle 82 yards late in the second quarter and Lynch powered in from the 5 for a 10-0 lead.
Wilson connected with Metcalf for 26 yards and David Moore for 38 on third-down, catch-and-run passes to keep that drive going.
McCown finally got the offense going on the opening drive of the third quarter. He connected with Zach Ertz for 32 yards and Boston Scott ran 15 yards to the 5. But a false start, fumbled snap and sack followed. Jake Elliott’s 26-yard field goal cut the deficit to 10-6.
The Seahawks answered quickly. Metcalf stretched to catch Wilson’s deep pass, got up and tumbled into the end zone for a 17-6 lead.
“I caught the ball, I didn’t feel anybody touch me,” Metcalf said. “I got back up and I wanted a touchdown. I wanted a touchdown, real bad.”
Down 17-9, Eagles coach Doug Pederson passed up a 42-yard field goal attempt with 6:24 left and went for fourth-and-4 from the Seahawks 24. Miles Sanders couldn’t catch McCown’s pass.
Philadelphia had another chance after Shelton Gibson, just signed earlier in the week, drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty to the Seahawks 13.
On fourth-and-7 from the 10 with two minutes left, Clowney sacked McCown.
Wentz was forced to watch from the sideline following knee surgery when Foles led the Eagles to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title two years ago. He was out with a back injury last year when Foles led Philadelphia to a wild-card win in Chicago.
The Eagles were decimated by injuries throughout the season and had to rely on five offensive players off the practice squad during a four-game winning streak that sealed the NFC East title.
Wentz started all 16 games for the second time in his four seasons and played his best down the stretch with backups surrounding him. But he finished the season injured the same as the previous two.
“I’m disappointed for him,” Pederson said. “I wanted this for him. I think a lot of his teammates did, too. The team and the organization did. He’s battled through a lot.”
Seattle had plenty of injuries, too. The Seahawks lost running backs Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise, forcing them to sign Lynch.
But Seattle has Wilson — and he has the Seahawks heading to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the divisional round.
“We’re anticipating some snow,“ Wilson said with a smile. “They obviously have Aaron, they have a lot of great players, they have a great defensive line.”