NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints gave a national audience a taste of what New Orleans' long-suffering fans have bemoaned for years.
Not that the Minnesota Vikings will complain about being the latest to play a supporting role in the Saints' stranger-than-fiction, four-decade history of bizarre and dramatic losses.
Even Reggie Bush's record-tying two punt returns for touchdowns couldn't make up for New Orleans' numerous blunders in a 30-27 loss to Minnesota on Monday night.
The Saints' second failed field goal attempt of the game -- the first was blocked and returned 59 yards for a touchdown -- allowed the Vikings to drive for Ryan Longwell's game-winning 30-yard field goal with 13 seconds left.
"It's probably one of the weirdest games I've ever been involved in," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "Just the way this thing kind of went back and forth. I'm trying to digest it all right now and in the end it's a loss.
"That's extremely disappointing, especially when once again we have a chance to win it at the end."
Even some of the Vikings' mistakes somehow worked in their favor.
Bernard Berrian caught the game-tying touchdown pass with 7:10 to play after running the wrong route and nearly colliding with intended receiver Aundrae Allison. When Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway yanked Bush's face mask, the officials didn't call a penalty, but Bush fumbled, stalling a promising New Orleans drive.
It all made for a thrilling contest and a satisfying win for the Vikings (2-3), who desperately needed one.
"This is as good a win as it gets," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I don't know if I've ever been involved in one that went that way."
The Vikings had stolen a bizarre victory in the Louisiana Superdome before. In 2002, the Vikings, already out of the playoffs, elected to go for a 2-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point to tie a game at 31 in the final seconds. Daunte Culpepper fumbled the snap but still managed to score in 32-31 victory that started a three-game losing streak that caused New Orleans to miss the playoffs.
This time the quarterback was Gus Frerotte, who repeatedly delivered clutch throws under heavy pressure, absorbed several hard hits and at one point needed a doctor's clearance to return to action. He passed for 222 yards and his only TD was the one Berrian unexpectedly snagged. The Vikings' other touchdown pass was thrown by halfback Chester Taylor, who found Visanthe Shiancoe from 4 yards out.
Longwell's winning kick was set up by a pass interference call on a long throw to Berrian, who was run into before the ball came down despite being double-covered. That was only the latest gaffe by New Orleans.
Martin Gramatica, who had the field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown in the first quarter, missed a 46-yarder that could have given the Saints (2-3) a lead with two minutes to go.
New Orleans committed four turnovers, dropped several passes and was called for 11 penalties for 102 yards. New Orleans tried to catch the Vikings off guard with an onside kick, but Minnesota recovered, setting up Longwell's 53-yard field goal, which tied his season long.
The loss was reminiscent of a 34-32 setback at Denver in Week 3, when Gramatica missed a 43-yard field goal that could have put the Saints ahead with about two minutes to go.
With the Saints trailing 20-10 late in the third quarter Monday, Bush had his first touchdown return for 71 yards, slipping a tackle early and accelerating past a bone-jarring block at midfield by Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Bush nearly broke another punt return, but tripped and fell at the Minnesota 49. Still, New Orleans only needed one first down to set up Gramatica's 53-yard field goal to tie it.
The Vikings kicked to Bush again and paid for it. Bush caught the punt on the run and burst between the only defenders who really had a shot at him before cutting outside into the open field for a 64-yard score.
"Great blocking by my teammates," Bush said. "It was obviously a huge play at a time of need. It would have been even sweeter if we had won this game."
Bush was the 12th player in NFL history to return two punts for TDs in a game. The last do it was Eddie Drummond of Detroit against Jacksonville on Nov. 14, 2004.
Frerotte, connected with Berrian for 36 yards to the New Orleans 27, then found him again for a 33-yard score to tie it at 27.
"I saw the ball go up and I said I'm going to score a touchdown no matter what," Berrian said.
Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield scored after recovering Gramatica's blocked kick in the first quarter and set up Minnesota's second TD with a forced fumble on a sack of Brees that he recovered at the New Orleans 5-yard line.
That set up Taylor's TD toss, which gave Minnesota a 17-10 lead in the second quarter.
Brees was 26-of-46 for 330 yards but was intercepted twice, once on a tipped pass deep in Vikings territory and once on a desperation heave in the final seconds.
His lone touchdown pass went for 17 yards to Devery Henderson on the Saints' first series of the game.
Bush's 176 return yards in the game set a Saints record. His four career punt returns for TDs and three this season are also club records. ... Drummond's returns -- 55 and 83 yards -- were both in the fourth quarter of the Lions' 23-17 overtime loss. ... The Vikings have won four straight Monday night games, while the Saints are 8-17 all-time on Monday night.
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