Wrap-up: Saints 42, Vikings 20

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
4:13
PM ET

Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 42-20 victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Mall of America Field:

What it means: The Saints improved to 11-3, marking their third straight season with at least 11 wins, a franchise record. The Saints held onto their lead in the NFC South and can control their own destiny by winning their next game. More importantly, the Saints also kept pace in the race for the No. 2 seed (San Francisco is 10-3 going into Monday night’s game against Pittsburgh) in the NFC playoffs, and the more chances they have for home playoff games, the better their shot at the Super Bowl will be.

What I liked: A lot of people have said the Saints aren’t a good road team. But for the second week in a row, they’ve gone on the road and come away with a win after some early adversity. Granted, beating the Vikings might not be as impressive as defeating the Titans last week. But once the Saints got past a few early mistakes, they dominated the game.

What I didn’t like: Sean Payton’s decision to go for an onside kick when the Saints had a 14-6 lead in the second quarter. It didn’t work and the Vikings scored a touchdown to close the lead to 14-13. It never got closer than that again, so there’s no real need to dwell on the decision to go with the onside kick. Plus, Payton sometimes has a tendency to out-think himself or be a little too aggressive. Maybe it’s a good thing he got that out of his system now, rather than in a game in which a controversial call could end up haunting him.

Another milestone: Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes. That gives him 37 for the season. His previous career high was 34, which he reached in both 2008 and 2009.

What’s next: The Saints host the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 26 in a "Monday Night Football" game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Let’s go ahead and declare it the “Game of the Year’’ in the NFC South. If the Saints win, they will be the NFC South champion for the second time in three seasons. These teams have developed a great rivalry in recent years and the Saints won in overtime when the teams played in the Georgia Dome earlier in the season. That game involved a controversial decision by Atlanta coach Mike Smith to go for it on fourth-and-inches. The Falcons will be out for revenge, and they look like they’re a better team now than they were earlier in the season. Then again, I think the Saints also have gotten better as the season has gone on.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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