Minnesota Vikings earn spot in NFC Championship game with miraculous final play


Minnesota Vikings earn spot in NFC Championship game with miraculous final play

The Minnesota Vikings booked a place in the NFC Championship game with a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

They did it in stunning style as Stefon Diggs made a 61-yard run to touchdown, from Case Keenum’s throw, with the last play of the game.

A much easier evening had looked on the cards as the Vikings had led by 17 points in the third quarter before an impressive comeback by the Saints, who led by a point with 10 seconds left on the clock.

But Diggs’ memorable last-gasp touchdown gave Vikings the victory and set up a meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Earlier, rookie Leonard Fournette ran for three touchdowns as the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 to advance to their first AFC Championship Game in 18 years.

The Jaguars, in the NFL’s play-offs for the first time in a decade, will travel to reigning champions the New England Patriots next weekend to determine who will be the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl LII.

Jacksonville opened up a 21-point advantage in the second quarter and despite Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing five touchdowns, two to Antonio Brown, the Jaguars never relinquished their lead.

They had beaten Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in the regular season when Fournette ran for 181 yards and two scores, and he found the end zone twice in the opening quarter here before TJ Yeldon scored a third rushing touchdown for the Jags.

The first of Brown’s brilliant touchdown receptions trimmed the visitors’ lead, but they hit back through a Telvin Smith fumble recovery score before Roethlisberger hooked up with Martavis Bryant on fourth and 11th to make it 28-14 to the Jags at the half.

Le’Veon Bell’s touchdown catch brought Pittsburgh within seven and even after Fournette’s third score of the afternoon, another Brown TD grab on fourth down kept the Steelers within one score of tying the contest midway through the fourth quarter.

Blake Bortles’ only touchdown throw to full-back Tommy Bohanon took Jacksonville beyond the 40-point mark, though the Steelers hit back again through Bell’s rushing score.

However, their controversial decision to kick an onside kick with 2:18 left backfired as Jacksonville recovered possession and turned it into a Josh Lambo field goal that increased their lead to 10 points.

There was still time for Roethlisberger, who ended up with 469 yards through the air, to complete a fifth touchdown toss to JuJu Smith-Schuster but it was too late to prevent Jacksonville from advancing.

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots are heading to their seventh straight AFC Championship game after brushing aside the Tennessee Titans 35-14.

Marcus Mariota found Corey Davis for a 15-yard score in the first quarter, but the Patriots then scored five touchdowns on the bounce to put the game out of reach.

James White had one in the air and one on the ground within four second-quarter minutes, and Tom Brady hit Chris Hogan with a four-yard pass to give the Patriots a 21-7 half-time lead.

Brandon Bolden scored on a two-yard rush and Rob Gronkowski caught a four-yard pass from Brady, with Davis getting an 11-yard consolation touchdown with two minutes left to play.

More in this section

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up