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Former Terp Stefon Diggs plays hero in Vikings' miracle playoff win

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Former Terp Stefon Diggs plays hero in Vikings' miracle playoff win

MINNEAPOLIS -- There wasn't much left for Case Keenum to do but to fling the ball deep and hope for a miracle.

Miracle answered.

Keenum completed a last-ditch heave near the sideline Sunday on the game's final play, and Stefon Diggs slithered away for a 61-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 29-24 victory over New Orleans and send the Vikings to the NFC championship game, with one more win needed to become a first-time Super Bowl host.

Drew Brees had driven the Saints in position for Wil Lutz's go-ahead 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining, punctuating a steely rally from a 17-point deficit that stood until 1:16 was left in the third quarter.

The Vikings were out of timeouts and nearly out of options when Keenum dropped back with 10 seconds to go from his 39 and threw high into a crowd. Diggs jumped in front of Marcus Williams, who rolled awkwardly underneath Diggs during an ill-fated attempt at a tackle.

Diggs held his ground, kept his feet in bounds and raced untouched into the end zone as the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium erupted.

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"I'm just thankful," Diggs said. "They count us out all the time. Nobody thinking we can do it. This game was over. I don't stop playing till the clock hit zero. That's it."

This wasn't quite Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception for Pittsburgh in the 1972 playoffs, but these Vikings are on some kind of special path. They finished 13-3 during the regular season, giving the career backup Keenum the keys to the offense after Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury after the opener.

The Vikings will play at Philadelphia next weekend, after Jacksonville takes on New England for the AFC title. The Super Bowl is in Minnesota two weeks later.

"A heck of a game, wasn't it?" coach Mike Zimmer said. "And the good guys won."

Now the Vikings have spun an unprecedented scenario in NFL history. Next weekend, instead of the usual win-or-go-home stakes, they're in a win-and-go-home situation with the Super Bowl set for Feb. 4 under the reverberating translucent roof of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Though only defensive end Brian Robison remains from the 2009 team that lost in overtime of the NFC championship game at New Orleans, the Vikings exacted some revenge on Brees and the Saints, at least for their long-frustrated fans.

They put them through quite the emotional finish to complete it.

Brees connected with Michael Thomas for two of his three touchdown passes in a span of 3:09 of the second half. The first score came after a 12-play, 80-yard drive. The second was set up at the Minnesota 40 by an interception by Williams after an off-balance throw by Keenum, his one costly moment of either inexperience or recklessness.

When George Johnson blocked Ryan Quigley's punt, the Saints took over at the Vikings 40. Four plays later, rookie Alvin Kamara, whose breakout was a major factor in the team's NFC South title and breakthrough from three straight 7-9 finishes, caught a 14-yard pass from Brees for a 21-20 lead with 3:01 left.

Forbath's 53-yard field goal, his third make of the evening against his former team, gave the Vikings their lead back with 1:29 left. That was more than enough time for Brees, the sure-bet Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl ring and all kinds of records.

But after Brees got Lutz in position, there were just enough seconds remaining for Keenum -- the undrafted and undersized all-time leading passer in NCAA history at Houston whose first career playoff start ended in spectacular fashion. He finished with 318 yards, going 25 for 40, with Diggs catching 137 yards on six catches.

"This will take a while to get over," said Payton, who fell to 1-5 on the road in playoff games.

Brees saw his 13th career postseason game end in a crushing final moment, his 25-for-40 performance for 294 yards tainted a bit by two interceptions before halftime. One came on a leaping grab by safety Andrew Sendejo, the other off a tip by Everson Griffen that landed in Anthony Barr's arms at the Minnesota 10-yard line midway through the third quarter.

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Former Maryland WRs had NFL success only 2 programs matched in 2019

Former Maryland WRs had NFL success only 2 programs matched in 2019

LSU players and fans like to call the Tigers 'DBU,' based on all the success former LSU defensive backs have had in the NFL. The same goes with Clemson for 'WRU,' or the University of Southern California for 'QBU.'

Maryland has never been considered to be 'WRU,' but after this one stat, they certainly deserve to be in the conversation.

The Terrapins were one of three programs that had two former players top 1,100 receiving yards in the NFL this year. Second-year pro D.J. Moore finished with 1,175 receiving yards for the Carolina Panthers, while Stefon Diggs has 1,130 yards for the Minnesota Vikings. 

Besides Maryland, only Penn State and Alabama had two players accomplish the same feat.

For the Crimson Tide, both former All-Americans Julio Jones and Amari Cooper finished with over 1,100 receiving yards. As far as former Nittany Lions, both Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson reached the mark. Godwin enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, finishing with 1,333 receiving yards, the NFL's third-best. Robinson, in his second season with the Bears, finished with 1,147 yards.

What makes this feat impressive for Maryland is that Diggs and Moore were the only two former Terrapin wide receivers on NFL rosters in 2019. To compare, the Crimson Tide had seven, while Penn State had four.

The 22-year-old Moore just finished the first breakout season of his career and Diggs is just entering his prime, so expect plenty of production from these two for years to come.

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Jalen Smith slams home a powerful put-back dunk against Northwestern

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Jalen Smith slams home a powerful put-back dunk against Northwestern

Jalen Smith gets a lot of slack for leaving points on the board inside the paint. Against Northwestern, he made sure these two points would count. 

Following an Anthony Cowan Jr. missed layup in transition, Smith followed in with an authoritative slam dunk. 

After a sluggish start in the first half for the Terps offense, this slam dunk got Maryland's juices flowing as they looked poised to scrap together a comeback. 

The slam came just 30 seconds following another Smith flush, showing an added intensity for the Terps. 

Those four straight points got Maryland back within 10 points of Big Ten foes Northwestern, whose zone defense befuddled the Terrapin offense in the opening 20 minutes. 

If the Terps hope to complete the comeback, more momentum-swinging points like these will be necessary. 

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