MINNEAPOLIS — Thanks to Wade Wilson's superb relief passing performance and to what New Orleans Coach Jim Mora felt was his team's ineptitude, Wilson's Minnesota Vikings went out winners and Mora's Saints went out losers.
Wilson, starting in place of injured quarterback Tommy Kramer, had his second three-touchdown passing game of the year Sunday as the Vikings built a 27-point halftime lead en route to a 33-17 season-ending victory over the Saints.
The Vikings (9-7) finished the year with 398 points, breaking the team record of 383 set in 1965. It was the first time since 1980 that the Vikings won as many as nine games.
Meanwhile, New Orleans (7-9) failed to reach .500 for the 18th time in 20 seasons.
"I was embarrassed and also surprised," Mora said. "Maybe this is more realistic as to what kind of team we are. What you saw out there was a terrible football team. We had a chance to be 8-8 and a respectable football team, but now we are just losers at 7-9."
Viking Coach Jerry Burns, like Mora a first-year NFL head coach, was thrilled with his team's effort one week after its lackadaisical loss to Houston had cost Minnesota a playoff spot.
"It showed the pride in their performance, the pride in their professional play," he said. "I consider it a successful season."
Of Wilson, who was making just the 10th start of his six-year career, Burns said: "I've always said that I think he's the best backup quarterback in football."
With Kramer sidelined because of an elbow injury, Wilson completed 24 of 39 passes for a career-high 361 yards.
"We came out in the first half and could do no wrong," said Wilson, who also had three touchdown passes in Minnesota's 45-13 victory over Tampa Bay three weeks ago. "We were definitely clicking."
Steve Jordan, who grabbed two touchdown passes, had seven catches for 85 yards to surpass Stu Voigt as Minnesota's all-time tight end reception leader with 182 catches.
New Orleans was out of the game practically from the opening snap, which quarterback Dave Wilson fumbled away at his own 24. Seven plays later, Wade Wilson passed one yard to Jordan for a touchdown.
While Dave Wilson's misfortune continued--he sprained his left knee the next time he touched the football and was replaced by Bobby Hebert--Wade Wilson prospered. He led the Vikings into position for Chuck Nelson's 46-yard field goal and completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Darrin Nelson for a 16-0 Vikings lead.
After Morten Andersen's 39-yard field goal made it 16-3, the Vikings surged to a 30-3 halftime lead.