MINNEAPOLIS — This time, there was no last-second miracle to save the Vikings.
The defense wasn't about to let this one slip away, despite a first half when it looked like the defense wouldn't give the Saints a chance.
This time, the defense made the play. Or actually two.
First, Alex Anzalone and P.J. Williams combined for a tackle that caused a momentum-shifting fumble in the second quarter.
Then Williams returned an interception for a touchdown that all but sealed the redemptive 30-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
"This win was big time," Anzalone said. "This game had a lot of meaning for a lot of different reasons. One, we didn't want to take a loss. We are on a roll right now. Two, everything with last year was extra motivation, no matter what anyone says. It was in the back of everyone's mind."
It was the sixth straight victory for the Saints (6-1), the second-longest winning streak in the league.
The longest streak belongs to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams (8-0), who visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.
But to set up that NFC showdown, the Saints first had to get past the nemesis Vikings (4-3-1), who beat them both last year's regular-season opener and then broke their hearts in the playoffs in January with the play dubbed the "Minnesota Miracle."
The Saints, at least considering how their defense was playing through most of the first half, got their own miracle of sorts late in the second quarter.
The Vikings, leading 13-10, looked to be headed in for a touchdown that would have given them a two-score lead. Instead, Anzalone forced a fumble after a completion to Adam Thielen. Marshon Lattimore scooped it up and returned it 54 yards down the same sideline Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs famously used in the playoffs nine months ago.
Lattimore didn't score, but he made it to the 33-yard line, which was plenty close enough for the Saints' offense.
The Vikings were assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play and the Saints scored two plays later when Alvin Kamara leaped over the top for a 1-yard score (his second touchdown of the game) for a 17-13 halftime lead.
"That point shift was big," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "That's a 10-point swing and was a huge sequence for us."
The Saints never trailed again.
Williams, who had struggled in the first half, gave the Saints some cushion in the third quarter. He intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that put New Orleans ahead 27-13.
It was a bit of redemption for Williams, who was a big reason the Vikings were able to score on their first two possessions to build a 14-7 lead.
"It definitely felt good," said Williams. "I saw him throw the ball, made a play on the ball and it was nothing but open field. I felt kinda slow. When I got to the end zone it felt great. ...They took us out last year, so we definitely wanted to take them out this year."
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Cousins and the Minnesota offense picked on the Saints secondary early and scored on their first two possessions to answer the Saints' opening drive that was capped off by a 3-yard shovel pass from Drew Brees to Kamara.
But the Vikings didn't score again until 4:26 remained in the fourth quarter.
It was enough to win on a day when Brees didn't put up the huge numbers he has for most of the season. He completed 18 of 23 passes, including his first eight, for just 120 yards. He also threw his first interception of the season. He hadn't thrown one since the Saints' playoff loss to the Vikings.
It was the first time since 2006 the Saints won a game when Brees threw for less than 150 yards.
"I think it says a lot about the team," Brees said. "We come into every game with a ton of confidence. We feel like we are battle-tested and that we win in a lot of different ways."
This time, it was the defense.