I was at a bar on Sunday when I saw the Minnesota Vikings crushing it during the second quarter of their playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on the TV. I didn’t think too much about it since I figured they had the game in the bag. It wasn’t until Monday that I learned I’d missed one of the most exciting ends of a game in NFL history. Although I don’t follow sports regularly, the best games are unforgettable, and this was one of them, featuring an inspirational final moment that can thrill anyone.
In the final moments of the fourth quarter, the Saints were up by one point, 24-23, with ten seconds on the clock. All the Vikings had to do to win was make a field goal attempt inside the Saints’ 35-yeard-line. As explained by Ryan Van Bibber, they attempted what’s called a “Seventh Heaven Play,” a maneuver they’ve used before where the receiver runs down the field near the boundary. The “angel” on that play was wide receiver Stefon Diggs, with Vikings quarterback Case Keenum throwing him the ball.
The Saints tried to intercept Keenum’s pass and failed. They played right into the Vikings’ hands by running to the sidelines, attempting to tackle Diggs in bounds. It failed because it gave Diggs the opportunity to run all the way to the end zone to catch the pass, rather than just go for the field goal. When he finally catches the ball, he’s close to the boundary, but then, something incredible happens. You can see it around 10 seconds in:
The moment Diggs catches the ball, he nearly falls down, like the two Saints crashing to the ground behind him, who would have tackled him. But for one moment, he puts his left hand on the ground:
That made all the difference. It doesn’t look like much here, but had Diggs fallen on his knee, he would’ve fallen out of bounds and they would’ve called time out, making the whole play useless. Diggs, using every reflex he can, made sure he stayed on the field and then, with nobody behind him to catch up, ran to the end zone and scored the touchdown.
Diggs’s post-game interview here is a masterpiece as well, not because he articulates what he just did, but because he can’t. Like Evander Holyfield after winning the title in 1996, he speaks primarily about God, as if he was in control of his moves. “I still don’t know what happened,” he says. If Diggs were able to analyze the move afterwards, he probably wouldn’t have won the game. He was in a state of psychological flow where nothing else could get in, including conscious memory. It reminds me of the scene in War and Peace where Nikolai Rostov successfully hunts a wolf and Tolstoy, tracing his thoughts, writes, “This was the happiest moment of his life.” The point is not that he will ever remember the moment: the point is that he was firing on all synapses and succeeded, which is why he can’t remember it.
Better sports analysts than me will break down how this play worked for years to come, and the Vikings have momentum that may take them to their first Super Bowl game in more than 40 years. All I can say is that this is one of the most inspirational moments I’ve seen from a football game in a long time. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a regular NFL watcher – you can’t watch what happened and not be moved by the Vikings’ perseverance. It was do-or-die, they knew they couldn’t give up, and they didn’t let anything else distract them. That’s why they won.
What has been a source of unexpected inspiration for you lately? Let me know in the comments below.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.