As Stefon Diggs and his Minnesota Vikings teammates celebrated on the television in front of them, Scott and Megan Mullen could only look at each other in silence.
“We didn’t even celebrate,” Megan Mullen said to Yahoo Sports on Monday morning. “We’re like, ‘Did that just happen? Did we really just leave and miss that play?’”
While the purple-clad crowd celebrated the Minneapolis Miracle just a few miles away, the truth is that US Bank Stadium was short at least one father and one daughter from its announced crowd of 66,612 fans.
Approximately a half-hour earlier, Scott Mullen sat in his upper-deck seat and told his younger daughter that he’d seen enough.
Yes, they had a fun day up to that point and yes, Megan had won the tickets from work and decided to take her dad. But the Saints had erased a 17-point deficit to take a 21-20 lead with just under three minutes to go. The raucous roar from the first half had dulled to a numb and uneasy silence.
Scott recognized that he’d seen this movie before. He told Megan she was welcome to stay and watch the end of the game, but that he’d either go stand in the concourse or head to a bar rather than watch what looked like the next in a long line of Vikings playoff failures.
“Everything was going great and then the second half begins and I’m like ‘I just can’t,’” said Scott Mullen, a gregarious 58-year-old who works in Duluth for a food distributor. “[Case] Keenum threw that interception and all these bad feelings started to come back. They just let us down so many times.”
Scott had first-hand experience attending gut-punch playoff losses. One of the six Vikings games he has attended was the NFC championship against Atlanta in 1999, when Gary Anderson’s infamous missed field goal helped end what had been a dream 15-1 season. (Megan, who was only 6 at the time, has no recollection of the moment.)
After walking out of the Metrodome in silence that day with 67,000 others, Scott pledged it was something he never wanted to live through again.
“It’s just the mindset of being let down so many times,” Scott said. “I know it’s not right, it’s just something I didn’t want to experience again.”
Concerned that her father would get lost, Megan, 25, begrudgingly agreed to leave the game and watch the rest from her boyfriend’s house in northeast Minneapolis.
They saw a few other disappointed Vikings fans on the way out, headed to the empty Uber line, and got into a car.
As they were in transit, the Vikings hit a field goal to take a 23-21 lead with 1:29 remaining. By the time they got home and turned on the television, Drew Brees was leading the Saints on a drive that would end with a field goal that gave New Orleans a one-point lead with 25 seconds left.
The Mullens’ decision to leave looked like it wasn’t going to backfire.
“The Vikings never [come back]!” Scott said. “We’re usually the ones getting scored on with 10 seconds left.”
By now, you know what happened next. Keenum dropped back, Marcus Williams whiffed and Diggs scampered 61 yards for the greatest 10 seconds in Vikings franchise history.
After confirming the play really just happened, Scott could no longer contain himself. Still dressed in his Jared Allen No. 69 jersey, he bolted for the front door and started celebrating in the snow as Megan happily filmed from the doorway.
Father is a die hard Vikes fan since ‘75. left the game early. repeat, left game EARLY. @meggsNbacon_27 @ESPNNFL @espn @SportsCenter
.#vikings #mnvikings #diehardfan #wholeavesearly #snowangel #bamshamalamadingdong #onlyinminnesota #WEDAT pic.twitter.com/hLZF0ZtGWo
— Alyssa Taran (@alyssa_mullen) January 15, 2018
Megan and her sister Alyssa posted the clip to social media, where family and friends immediately started razzing Scott for missing out on the opportunity to watch the play live.
But Scott doesn’t care.
“I’m proud I left early!” he told Yahoo Sports. “I’ve gotten a lot of texts and crap on Facebook, but I’m telling them that they’re lucky I left early. I’ve been to six home games in my lifetime and the only Vikings game that I’ve been to that they won was at Lambeau two years ago.”
In fact, Scott now says he wouldn’t even attend a possible Vikings Super Bowl in Minneapolis even if someone were crazy enough to give tickets to the type of person who’d leave a game early.
“I think he is 100 percent convinced that he should never go to a Vikings game again,” Megan said.
As for Megan, she spent her Monday morning listening to countless replays of Paul Allen’s hometown touchdown call. It was being played everywhere in the Twin Cities on Monday morning and Megan says that each time she hears it she smiles and gets the chills.
If there was any disappointment stemming from her dad’s decided lack of faith in the Vikings, it had disappeared by Monday morning.
“Obviously, I wanted to stay and watch the game,” Megan said. “I’m bummed … but I’m not going to hold it against him for the rest of his life, if that’s what you’re asking.”
More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Why a Vikings kneel, not the wild TD catch, set Vegas off
• Marcus Williams’ huge whiff will live on in playoff infamy
• Who is really to blame for Steelers’ stunning loss?
• Athletes react to Vikings win exactly the way we would expect
• Playoff win can’t save Mularkey; coach fired by Titans