Tampa Bay's 30-20 victory over New Orleans in Sunday's division round ended up with a comfortable-seeming final score. But the outcome might have been much different if not for former Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. making the defensive play of the game for the Buccaneers.
New Orleans led 20-13 late in the third quarter and had just gained a first down past midfield on a completion from Drew Brees to tight end Jared Cook. But on the play, Winfield tracked down Cook and punched the ball loose for a fumble recovered by teammate Devin White. Tampa Bay went on to score the tying touchdown on the ensuing possession, then added 10 more points on the way to the victory.
On social media Monday, Winfield Jr. posted a video clip of the game-changing play — along with a nod to some personal family history with the Saints when he wrote:
"Made some grown men cry last night and I don't feel bad about it! That was for my pops back in '09."
He was of course referring to the 2009 NFC title game when Winfield Sr. and the Vikings lost 31-28 in overtime to the Saints.
Though Winfield Jr. was only 11 at the time — and the Vikings have exacted some revenge in the mean time by knocking the Saints out of the playoffs in dramatic fashion in both 2017 and 2019 — there are some games you just never forget.
Now Winfield Jr. is one game away from playing in the Super Bowl that his dad came oh-so-close to reaching in 2009.
To get there? Tampa Bay will have to defeat the Vikings' biggest rival, Green Bay.