Vikings beat Saints

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2008


AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Bernard Berrian ran the wrong route at the right time.

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The result was a game-tying, 33-yard touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte intended for another receiver. When Frerotte did throw the ball Berrian’s way a little later, the Vikings’ big-play receiver didn’t even have to catch it to set up the winning score.

A pass interference call on a deep throw into double coverage set up Ryan Longwell’s 30-yard field goal with 13 seconds left, allowing the Minnesota Vikings to escape with a 30-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.

Reggie Bush ran back an NFL record-tying two punts for touchdowns of 71 and 64 yards which helped the Saints turn a 10-point third quarter deficit into a one-touchdown fourth quarter lead. But the Saints committed too many blunders — and the Vikings were too opportunistic — for Bush’s night to matter.

“This is as good a win as it gets,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in one that went that way.”

Saints fans have seen their team lose plenty of games in bizarre and dramatic ways through the franchise’s four-decade history. Minnesota fans may remember one such game in 2002, when Daunte Culpepper fumbled a snap on an all-or-nothing 2-point conversion try in the final seconds of a game in the Louisiana Superdome — and still managed to score in a 32-31 Vikings win. That was the beginning of a three-game slide for New Orleans, which finished 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

This time, Frerotte repeatedly delivered clutch throws under heavy pressure, absorbed several hard hits and at one point needed a doctor’s clearance to return to action. He passed for 222 yards and his only TD was the one Berrian unexpectedly snagged.

“I was just determined to go up there and catch it,” Berrian said. “It just hung up there and I made a play.”

The Vikings’ other touchdown pass was thrown by running back Chester Taylor, who took a handoff on third-and-goal before finding Visanthe Shiancoe on a 4-yard toss.

“I love this team, the feeling we have in the huddle,” said the 37-year-old Frerotte, who has won two of three starts since taking over for 25-year-old Tarvaris Jackson. “They’re looking at me and have trust in what we are doing.”

The Vikings didn’t get a chance to line up for their game-winning field goal until Saints kicker Martin Gramatica, who had a field goal attempt blocked and returned 59-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, pulled a 46-yard attempt wide left with two minutes left.

“The worst thing about is I let the team down,” Gramatica said. “These guys killed each other for 60 minutes. It is frustrating when you have a group of guys who are tight like us. It kills you to let them down.”

The loss was reminiscent of a 34-32 setback at Denver in Week 3, when Gramatica missed a 43-yard field goal that could have put the Saints ahead with about two minutes to go.

Berrian’s TD wasn’t the only Vikings mistake that worked out in Minnesota’s favor anyway. When linebacker Chad Greenway yanked Bush’s face mask during a running play, the officials didn’t call a penalty, but Bush fumbled, stalling a promising New Orleans drive.

“It’s probably one of the weirdest games I’ve ever been involved in,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “Just the way this thing kind of went back and forth. I’m trying to digest it all right now and in the end it’s a loss.

“That’s extremely disappointing, especially when once again we have a chance to win it at the end.”

New Orleans committed four turnovers, dropped several passes and was called for 11 penalties for 102 yards. The Saints tried a surprise onside kick in the first quarter, but Minnesota recovered, setting up Longwell’s 53-yard field goal, which tied his season long.

With the Saints trailing 20-10 late in the third quarter, Bush had his first touchdown return for 71 yards, slipping a tackle early and accelerating past a bone-jarring block at midfield by Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

Bush nearly broke another punt return, but tripped at the Minnesota 49. Still, New Orleans only needed one first down to set up Gramatica’s 53-yard field goal to tie it.

Childress told punter Chris Kluwe to aim his next kick out of bounds. Kluwe’s aim was off and Bush caught it on the run, then burst between a pair of defenders who appeared to have a shot at him before cutting outside for a 64-yard score.

Bush was the 12th player in NFL history to return two punts for TDs in a game. The last do it was Eddie Drummond of Detroit against Jacksonville on Nov. 14, 2004.

Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield scored after recovering Gramatica’s blocked kick in the first quarter and set up Minnesota’s second TD with a forced fumble on a sack of Brees that Winfield recovered himself and advanced to the New Orleans 5-yard line.

Brees was 26-of-46 for 330 yards but was intercepted twice, once on a tipped pass deep in Vikings territory and once on a desperation heave in the final seconds.

His lone touchdown pass went for 17 yards to Devery Henderson on the Saints’ first series of the game.

Notes: Bush’s 176 return yards in the game set a Saints record. His four career punt returns for TDs and three this season are also club records. … Drummond’s returns — 55 and 83 yards — were both in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ 23-17 overtime loss. … The Vikings have won four straight Monday night games, while the Saints are 8-17 all-time on Monday night.