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The Minneapolis Miracle An Oral History of the Most Unforgettable Play in Vikings History

By Eric Smith

It is a play that will live in Vikings lore forever, a sequence unlike anything anyone has ever seen.

Stefon Diggs’ game-winning, 61-yard touchdown has been replayed thousands of times in the minds of Vikings fans everywhere. No one will ever forget where they were at 7:15 p.m. (CT) on the evening on January 14, 2018.

Everyone, whether they were at U.S. Bank Stadium or on their couches or watching with friends at a bar, can describe their emotions on the final unforgettable play of a 29-24 win over New Orleans.

But Vikings players, coaches and others associated with the team had a front-row seat to perhaps the most remarkable play in the 57-year history of the franchise.

Here, in their own words, is “The Minneapolis Miracle.”

‘I Never Gave Up Hope’

Minnesota trailed 24-23 as the Vikings offense took the field with 25 seconds left and one timeout.

There had already been two lead changes in the previous 64 seconds, as both teams kicked go-ahead field goals.

In the moments before Vikings quarterback Case Keenum connected with Diggs for the improbable score, emotions on the Minnesota sideline were a mixed bag of disappointment and hope and nerves.

It was now or never for the Vikings.

Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph:

“25 seconds, you never know what will happen. I was on the sidelines, I never gave up hope.”

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen:

“Just try to make a play. Case said in the huddle he’s going to give one of us an opportunity to make a play, and he did that.”

Vikings center Pat Elflein:

“Everyone believed. You could tell everyone was believing, especially Case. He keeps the faith, and we believed in him. We knew we had playmakers and we gave them a shot, and someone made a play. “

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison:

“Oh my gosh, I mean you’re pretty low. You’re pretty low, but I still thought we had a chance. With our offense having a little bit of time left, I was thinking if we could get the ball out of bounds a couple of times, maybe even clock it. Give Kai Forbath a chance. I never thought we would score a touchdown, especially in that fashion. Emotions went from low to extremely high.”

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum:

“When you’re that tired, it’s that late, you’re just fighting and clawing; like I said, it’s a reaction. I remember being on the sideline, looking over some last-minute plays. I just was thinking, ‘Just go react and play.’ ”

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs:

“We ran that same play twice. We ran it {two plays} before that, and we were just trying to get down the field. We just have to make it work, and Adam said before we went out, ‘I don’t care what it’s called, make it work.’ ”

‘Voice of the Vikings’ Paul Allen:

“Just staying in control and making sure I obsessively gave the score, the time left in the game and the timeouts for each team. I think, for those listening, that was pertinent information, so I repeatedly gave it. Just staying composed and chill and letting the miracle happen.”

‘It Was a Miracle’

The Vikings faced third-and-10 from their own 39-yard line. Minnesota actually ran the play Diggs scored on, which is called 7 Heaven in the playbook, on the final two plays of the game.

Diggs ran a deep corner route to the Vikings sideline as Keenum fired a strike to the former fifth-round pick. Diggs leapt and caught the ball at the Saints 34-yard line as New Orleans safety Marcus Williams glanced by the wide receiver.

Diggs stumbled but used his left hand to regain his balance. With nothing but green turf in front of him, the 24-year-old sprinted into the end zone for the unbelievable score.

When Keenum received the shotgun snap, a win probability chart by ESPN Stats and Info gave the Vikings just a 2.6 percent chance to win.

Vikings right tackle Rashod Hill:

“The first thing going through my mind was making sure (Saints defensive end) Cameron Jordan doesn’t get to Case. I pushed him, gave him a last push, and Case threw it to Diggs. I think he was down to the 35-yard line, so I was like, ‘OK, he’s out of bounds, we can go down there and kick a field goal.’ It was a miracle.”

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison:

“I was right next to where Diggs caught it. My initial reaction was, ‘Get out of bounds!’ My second reaction, I saw him stumbling, was, ‘Aw, please get out of bounds!’ The third reaction was seeing him run down the sideline, so the first thing I did was look back for flags. Then I just sprinted in the end zone and collapsed with emotion in the corner of the end zone.”

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen:

“I just saw Case give him a chance, and I saw Diggs go up, and as soon as he caught it I knew he was gone. He’s made that play so many times, and I know that when he’s got an opportunity to make a play, he’s going to make it.”

Vikings fullback C.J. Ham:

“I was kind of behind it a little bit. I was right in line with Case and saw him throw it. I saw Diggs was going to catch it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s going to catch it and get out of bounds,’ so after he caught it, I kind of looked down a little bit. ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ I was definitely speechless.”

Vikings offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles:

“I was on the sideline, and I actually didn’t see Diggs catch it because being an O-lineman, I was watching the O-line. So I was watching Rashod block Cameron Jordan, I was watching Joe [Berger], I was watching all those guys. And then I saw them, OK, ball’s gone, and by the time I looked, Diggs was, I actually watched on the big screen as he was running in. I just dropped my helmet and just ran out on the field – anybody that would hug me, I would hug them. Just tears of happiness and just, I mean, such jubilation between everyone was pretty cool.”

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks:

“It better have been happening because I was already reacting. I was already celebrating. I didn’t even see him cross the end zone. I saw him running with no one around him and just started celebrating. “

‘Voice of the Vikings’ Paul Allen:

“The first thing I looked at was I wanted to see where cornerback Marshon Lattimore was. He is very good, and I just did not see the Vikings throwing in the [direction] of Lattimore. Because of that, I focused on the other side of the field when Keenum went back to pass. When Diggs caught it, analyst Pete Bercich jumped in and really started describing what had happened. Now, it’s my job during, with Pete channeling his inner fan, basically to say, ‘Diggs got loose, 30, 10, touchdown. It’s a Minneapolis Miracle, and the Vikings have walked-off on the New Orleans Saints.’ After that, you just kind of let the emotion take it from there.”

Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright:

“Once I saw him break the tackle, I knew he was (gone). I was running behind him with my finger up, and it was hard to even believe it then.”

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur:

“We were working the sidelines, certainly. But he just reacted, that’s just a player’s reaction. He’s behind the defense, so take off and score.”

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs:

“I was preparing for somebody to contact me so I could get out of bounds, but nobody touched me; I lost my foot a little bit and then I just tried to gather myself and my hand never let me go. The rest is history.”

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum:

“Yes, I was throwing the ball to Diggs on that play. It was pretty well covered. I mean it wasn’t like a normal – I don’t know. I’ll have to watch the film, too. I just saw a little bit of an opening. Threw it, he jumped up, and you all saw it.”

‘The Best Feeling Ever’

Nobody knew what to do.

Keenum ran around like a 5-year-old boy looking for someone to hug. Others thought that surely Diggs had stepped out of bounds, or that perhaps there was a penalty on the play.

But as the seconds passed, astonishment, hysteria and elation echoed throughout every corner of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Diggs would be mobbed by his teammates in the East tunnel near the end zone, in a mass of Purple jerseys. The first person to meet him was Vikings practice squad wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who sprinted down the sideline and got plenty of face time on the hundreds of highlights shown across the world.

And in the Vikings locker room almost an hour later, players and coaches still couldn’t process what had just happened.

It was “The Minneapolis Miracle.”

Vikings practice squad wide receiver Cayleb Jones (one of the first to reach Diggs):

“My phone was blowing up. I expected just normal stuff … but people were saying I was right there. I really wasn’t even trying to be in the mix. I was just so excited. We’re not supposed to be down there. The last thing somebody on the sidelines wants to do is cause a flag. It was just cool and crazy.”

Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon:

“I was chasing him and losing my breath. What a play … what a play. The best feeling ever.”

Vikings safety Harrison Smith:

“I think everybody just kind of [freaked] out. I just ran on the field and threw my helmet, had to go back and find it. It was kind of surreal. It was almost like, ‘Is there a flag? Is there a something?’ It was just one of those plays that will go down [in history].”

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs:

“I didn’t boo-hoo; [but was] teary-eyed a little bit.”

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum:

“I was looking for people to hug, and I knew I wasn’t going to get all the way to Diggsy, but linemen, anybody, anybody that was close enough just yelling and screaming at each other. It was fun. It was a lot of fun.”

Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff:

“I looked around and thought, ‘Is this really happening?’ I turned around to make sure there were no flags. It was crazy.”

Vikings right tackle Rashod Hill:

“I was just shocked. I took my helmet off and just sat down for a second like, ‘Wow.’”

Vikings right guard Joe Berger:

“You know you have to keep your man standing to have a chance to move on. I think once the ball goes, and you run to the end zone, you have a chance to just let that all go. You don’t have to be wired up because the game is over at that point. It’s excitement … you can’t describe it.”

Vikings offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles:

“It’s not good for your heart, I mean, I can tell you that. It’s part of the game. It’s why everyone says, it doesn’t matter, you play 60 full minutes. It’s why it’s the game of inches. It’s everything that you preach. It’s every cliché that you talk about, but it happens – and it’s why you play the game the way you do. Just to be a part of something like that is really special. I’ve been a part of a couple things, we had a Hail Mary in college that we caught, but I mean, that doesn’t even compare to going to play in the NFC Championship.”

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur:

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in on any of us yet. But we believe in our players and we believe, obviously down to the last play, that they’re going to do something special.”

Vikings fullback C.J. Ham:

“Growing up in Minnesota and being a Minnesota fan, I’ve heard and seen all of the ups and downs, so to have that go all the way was pretty amazing. I’m still pretty speechless about it. I woke up this morning, thinking, ‘Was that a dream?’ But I looked on Twitter, and it’s real life.”

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer:

“This is pretty good. I mean to get a chance to go play in the NFC Championship game is pretty darn good.”

‘Voice of the Vikings’ Paul Allen:

“You just feel it and just do it. You let the analyst say what he says, and when there’s an opening, I get in there and describe it the way I describe it, and then he fortunately, Pete went really hard-core on what happened on the play, and the rookie safety did what he did and ran into the cornerback Ken Crawley. That played into Diggs getting loose on the play. After that, while he was talking, I noticed the coaches in the Vikings coaches’ booth, which is right next to our booth, just going out-of-body, fist pumping, pointing at me, so I looked at them and started pumping my fists and got really, really excited at that moment. I recalled earlier in the day, when I was sitting at home, I looked at the weather in Philadelphia for Sunday, January 21st, and I remember seeing it was going to be 48 and drizzly. I tied together that with the term Purple Rain, and we went to interviews. I’m very proud of the way the Vikings Radio Network handled that whole thing.”

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