Former Gopher safety Antoine Winfield Jr. likely helped to send quarterback Drew Brees into retirement with a huge defensive play in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the NFC Divisional playoffs at the Superdome.
The Saints were up by a touchdown late in the quarter when Brees connected on an 8-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook. Cook got to the Buccaneers’ 47-yard line before Winfield punched the ball out of Cook’s possession. Tampa Bay’s Devin White recovered and returned it to the Saints’ 40. Tampa Bay scored on its ensuing drive as Tom Brady found running back Leonard Fournette on a 6-yard touchdown to tie the score.
Brees, who is expected to retire after 20 seasons, was emotional on the sideline as the game neared its end. You know who that didn’t bother? Winfield. The second-round pick took to Instagram to post this:
"Made some grown men cry last night… that was for my pops back in '09." ☠️☠️☠️
– Antoine Winfield Jr. with a *SAVAGE* Instagram post after Tampa Bay's win over New Orleans! pic.twitter.com/2PTmBkZvti
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) January 18, 2021
Winfield’s pops, of course, is former Vikings standout cornerback Antoine Winfield, whose team lost to the Saints in the 2009 NFC title game in the Superdome. That game eventually landed several Saints, including coach Sean Payton, in hot water with the NFL for placing a bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. The goal was to knock him out of the game. That didn’t happen but Favre was hobbled in Minnesota’s 31-28 overtime loss and many Vikings fans, not to mention Antoine Winfield Jr., haven’t forgotten.
Winfield, who is now 22, had an outstanding rookie season with the Buccaneers and can advance to the Super Bowl, if Tampa Bay can win at Green Bay on Sunday in the NFC championship game. Winfield’s father played 14 NFL seasons, including nine with the Vikings, and never got to the Super Bowl.