Players enjoyed Monday night's mayhem

Many Vikings admitted it was one of the craziest games they've been part of, but Monday night's win over the Saints was more important for what it did for the team – keep them in the hunt for a division title. See what the players had to say about the game that was one for the ages.

If the Vikings make it to the 2008 playoffs, it is likely that many will point to Monday's 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints as a turning point in the season. It was one of the wildest, momentum-changing games that the Vikings will likely play all season and it could be argued it was the most bizarre Vikings win since beating the Giants 24-21 on the road in 2005 – winning that with touchdowns on a kickoff return, a punt return and an interception return.

Longtime Vikings fans will remember some insane finishes (both good and bad) from the past, but for the players who lived through it, Monday's win was truly one for the books and the folklore.

"I've seen some crazy games, but that one ranks right up there," said kicker Ryan Longwell, who kicked the game-winning field goal with 13 seconds to play. "You just never know in this game. There were great athletes on both teams and they made a ton of big plays. You're always just one play away from seeing something amazing and we saw that Monday night."

There was no question that, despite player protestations to the contrary, Monday was a must-win game for the Vikings. The players essentially stuck to the script during the week, but admitted afterward that a loss would have turned the hole the Vikings had dug themselves into a cavern.

"We knew we had to win that game," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You can't start off 1-4. You start 1-4 and people start losing their jobs."

But how the game played out remains as bizarre and unlikely as it could possibly have been. The Saints horribly outplay the Vikings in the first half – at one point holding a total yardage edge of 251-48 – yet the Vikings led 20-10 at halftime. Two punt return touchdowns by Reggie Bush made it appear that the Saints would win despite a ton of turnovers. But 10 unanswered points by the Vikings in their final two possessions gave Minnesota a much-needed win and left players scratching their heads at what had just taken place.

"I've never been a part of something like that game," lineabacker Ben Leber said. "After the game (Saints QB and former teammate in San Diego) Drew Brees said it was of the strangest games he's ever seen and I would have to echo that same thing. The way they scored their points, the way they came out and played like they could no wrong early only to have us step up and shut down their offense after that, it was a crazy game. It had ups and downs, and you had to play the ebbs and flows of momentum. It was nuts."

Adding to the intensity was vicious hitting on both sides of the ball, a constant sense of desperation for both teams – the Saints fell into sole possession of last place in the NFC South due to the loss – and an atmosphere that is usually reserved for January, not October.

"I've only played in one playoff game in my career and that is exactly what it felt like," Allen said. "It was a fun game to play in, I tell you what. It never, never got dull. You get four turnovers in a game, you should blow them out. We didn't finish it off when we had a chance."

Safety Darren Sharper has been no stranger to bizarre Monday night games. He had several of them with the Packers, including the not-to-be-believed catch and run by Antonio Freeman to beat the Vikings. Almost from the outset, Monday's game had the feel of a playoff game. The players felt it. The coaches felt it. And it was obvious the Saints fans felt it.

"They say that anything that can happen that isn't written into the script happens on Monday night," Sharper said. "The (Superdome) may have been the loudest place I have ever played in. Not to take away anything from the fans at the Metrodome, but there were times when I couldn't even hear the guy standing beside me. I don't remember it being that loud. The stage was big and everybody was feeling it."

Monday wasn't the first time the Vikings had games that came down to the final minutes and seconds. They've had plenty of them. The difference was that this time the Vikings didn't fold up late and find a way to lose. Once the Saints had the 27-20 lead, there was a sinking feeling among fans that history might be repeating itself in the fourth quarter. But the Vikings ended up getting a win in a proverbial "must-win" situation.

"It was exciting, but you have to win a game like that," Allen said. "We finally won a game like that that came down to the end. You look at the Colts game and the Packers game. We had a chance at the end to win those and we lost them both. It was great to be on the other side of one of those."

It was clear that players were getting sick of the "must-win" questions from the media heading into Monday's game. That doesn't mean, however, that the questions weren't legitimate. They were. While some of the answers last week were dismissive in respect to all games being viewed as must-win, there was no avoiding that reality against the Saints and it was clear to the players that the urgency button was hit early in days leading up to the game.

"I think everybody felt it was a must-win throughout the week of practice," Leber said. "Everything was a little tighter, but that's a good thing. Everybody understood what the game meant. To lose that game, we would have put ourselves in a huge hole. Not to say that we couldn't have got out of it, but we needed it."

With the win, the Vikings move to within one game of first place with games against Detroit and Chicago coming before the Week 8 bye. Regardless of what the Bears do Sunday at Atlanta, if the Vikings can win the next two games, they will head into the bye week in first place with a win in hand over the Bears – a far cry from how things were playing out a week ago. But, for those who have been through the NFL wars, they know that team outlooks can take dramatic turns in the span of just a few days.

"A lot of times, winning one game can turn everything around for you," Sharper said. "In this day and age of the NFL, things change so much from week to week. We definitely feel like we're in the hunt and, if we can take care of our business, we won't have to worry about what anybody else does. We dug ourselves a hole to start the season, but we have the opportunity in front of us to get out of it in a hurry and be right back in the hunt."

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