NEW ORLEANS — For the first time in his career, Andrew Sendejo played nickel back on Sunday.

It turned out quite well. The Vikings safety was effective in a 26-20 overtime victory over New Orleans in a wild-card playoff game at the Superdome.

On Friday, the Vikings ruled out Mackensie Alexander because of a knee injury and placed Mike Hughes on injured reserve with a neck injury. With their two top slot backs out, they approached Sendejo, who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of illness.

“I had the flu all week, showed up on Friday, first day of practicing the nickel, went out Sunday and balled,” Sendejo said.

Had Sendejo, in his ninth pro season, ever played nickel before?

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

“Literally never,” he said.

Sendejo helped the Vikings contain Saints star receiver Michael Thomas, named Friday a unanimous All-Pro selection. Thomas, who set an NFL record during the season with 149 receptions, had seven catches for 70 yards.

“(Sendejo) competed his rear end off,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We tried to put him in the right situations the best we could.”

Rudolph review

All scoring plays in the NFL are reviewed, but Zimmer wasn’t too worried about tight Kyle Rudolph’s winning touchdown holding up.

Rudolph caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins in the left corner of the end zone with 10:45 left in overtime.

“I looked up there (at the replay) and saw both feet in with a third foot down, and with the ball in his hands, so I was gone (to the locker room),” Zimmer said.

While Rudolph’s feet obviously were in bounds, one thing that probably was looked at in the review was he could have committed offensive pass interference.

“There is contact by both players but none of that contact rises to the level of a foul,” NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron told a pool reporter.

History lesson

Vikings fans are hoping 2019 provides a repeat of 1987.

In 1987, the Vikings won at New Orleans 44-10 in a wild-card playoff game, then won in a big upset at San Francisco 36-24 in a divisional playoff.

This time, after beating the Saints, the Vikings will play at San Francisco on Saturday in a divisional playoff. And they again are the underdog.

The 49ers are 6 1/2-point favorites. They were an 11-point favorite in 1987.

It will be the sixth playoff meeting between the teams, all in a divisional round. Of the previous five, the 1987 game is the only one Minnesota has won. In the other games, the Vikings lost 17-14 in 1970, 34-9 in 1988, 41-13 in 1989 and 38-22 in 1997.

After the Vikings’ big win over the 49ers in the 1987 playoffs, they lost the NFC Championship Game 17-10 at Washington.

Bailey still hot

Vikings kicker Dan Bailey, who made 27 of 29 field-goal attempts in the regular season, continued his hot play.

Bailey made both his field-goal attempts Sunday, hitting from 43 yards in the first quarter and 21 in the second.

New Orleans kicker Will Lutz made a 29-yarder in the first quarter and a 49-yarder with two seconds left in regulation to tie the score 20-20.

Lutz missed a 43-yard attempt on the final play of the first half, which was set up by a 54-yard kickoff return by Deonte Harris. That enabled Minnesota to maintain a 13-10 lead.

Harris' pick

Vikings safety Anthony Harris, who tied for the NFL lead in the regular season with six interceptions, picked up where he left off in the playoffs.

He had a second-quarter interception that Zimmer called “huge,” and returned it 30 yards to the Saints 45, leading to a 5-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook with 23 seconds left in the first half for a 13-10 lead.