Sunday, January 14, 2018 will be a day that all Minnesota Vikings fans will be able to tell you where they were when it happened and by it I mean the Minneapolis Miracle! Without question, this was the most significant sports moment I had ever had the privilege of photographing and I will never forget the experience. By now, you probably already know what happened, that Stefon Diggs, against all odds, caught a 61-yard TD as time expired to beat the New Orleans Saints 29-24. A game-winning TD as time expired had never happened in the history of the NFL playoffs and for it to happen in favor of the Vikings was even more improbable. I’m not a great writer, so below are some links to some articles that I think do a great job of capturing what that moment means. What I want to do here is share with you what I experienced at that game from my perspective photographing it.
And for good measure here is a beautiful video that the Vikings put together
The #MinneapolisMiracle was incredible.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 17, 2018
All week I had been excited for this game. I knew U.S. Bank Stadium would be rocking like never before and I wasn’t disappointed. As the gates opened Vikings fans were ready to go. As always, you can click on the photos to view them larger.
The pregame warmups were joyous and I could feel the anticipation building in the air.
Stefon Diggs is usually very energetic and loose during warmups, but before this game he was particularly energetic by playing catch with anyone in the stands who would play with him.
As usual, I setup a remote camera up high in the stadium to capture the overall stadium during key moments of the game.
However, during player intros I put a second remote camera near the player entrance tunnel that provided a unique perspective I had never tried before. The players were particularly amped up and ready to go!
Next came the national anthem, sung by Bridget Kelly, which is always a spectacle at big NFL games and this was no exception.
Now it was go time.
The first half was exactly as I had hoped it would be. The Vikings defense was relentless, the crowd couldn’t contain their energy, and the Vikings took a 17-0 lead into halftime.
Things really started to change in the game when in the 3rd quarter the Saints managed to drive down the field in Vikings territory. The Vikings Andrew Sendejo took a very hard helmet-to-helmet hit that put him out of the game with a concussion and Xavier Rhodes took it very hard.
On the very next play, the Saints would score their first TD. The second half didn’t have many Vikings highlights until the final 3 minutes where there would be 4 lead changes. The feeling inside the stadium changed suddenly. The fans needed a little more coaxing to cheer their loudest on defense and plays started going the way of the Saints. I was starting to feel very uneasy about the outcome of the game. The Saints eventually took a 21-20 lead late in the 4th quarter. However, with 1 minute and 30 second left to play, the Vikings kicked a 53-yd field goal to take a 2 point lead.
Here is what that play looked like from up high.
But that was too much time left and the Vikings defense was not the same defense from the first half. The Saints regained the lead with a field goal of their own. At this point, the game would come down to the Vikings final drive. It was make or break. My thought was that if the game ends on a last-second field goal, I wanted to try to capture a wide angle shot of it encompassing the players and the uprights to capture the flight of the ball and give the scene a sense of place. So I went to the corner of the endzone that would give me that vantage point. When the game got down to 10 seconds and the Vikings were still deep in their own half of the field, my thought was that the game would come down to a Hail Mary. If that was the case, my endzone position was still pretty good for that. At this point in the game, I had put my long lens away because it becomes very cumbersome to carry during the postgame scrums on the field and I was relying on my 70-200mm lens for any on-field action shots with my 24-70mm on a second body for wide angle shots. When the pass to Diggs occurred, it was too far away from me to capture properly with the 70-200mm, so I wasn’t shooting at that moment. As soon as I saw Diggs catch the ball and the defender miss the tackle, I immediately started shooting. Instincts took over and I was no longer comprehending what was happening other than something was happening.
I’ve always liked the quote, “luck favors the prepared.” I don’t know if I can take credit for being prepared, but I definitely know I got beyond lucky because the play that is now known as the Minneapolis Miracle happened right in front of me with a completely unobstructed view. At this point, the only objective really is to not screw it up!
Everything from the moment on was just surreal and it was a frantic scramble to just capture any of it and all of it that I possibly could. The players reactions were visceral and raw, visibly crying while trying to comprehend the good fortune that had just found them.
Other players were in a state of awe at what happened, especially Everson Griffen. I don’t think the look on Sam Bradford’s face ever changed after the game. Every time I looked at him he had that giddy smile permanently fixed in place.
Vikings legend Cris Carter was on the field for the celebration as well.
As for Keenum and Diggs, they deservedly soaked in the excitement.
The experience of that night will be etched into my mind for a long time to come. It was extraordinary and overwhelming, but these are the moments that drive all sports photographers to do what they do. I almost had to keep convincing myself that what I saw actually happened that night, but the photos I shot keep proving to me that it really did happen. I’ll never forget it. Thanks for reading along. I hoped you enjoyed my recollection of the events I witnessed. Here are some other photos I shot at the game as well if you’re interested. Let’s see what the next game brings! If you saw a bald guy wearing a bright green vest on TV a lot during the postgame celebrations, that was definitely me, ha!
All content Copyright 2009-2014 by Ben Krause | Freelance Photographer based in Minneapolis, MN | 612.799.6008 | firstname.lastname@example.org