Saints Playoff Games
Jan. 24, 2010: Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints
For the second time in Saints history, they made it to the National Football Conference championship game. They hoped – and expected – to have a better result than the 39-14 drubbing the Chicago Bears handed them in the Windy City in 2007.
To say the Crescent City was in a frenzy would be an understatement. NFL Network com­mentator Steve Mariucci, former coach of the 49ers and Lions, said, "The city seems to be feeding off (the Saints) right now, and it's an awesome thing. It's different than Califor­nia or Cincinnati or Timbuktu because of what New Orleans has gone through." He was un­doubtedly referring to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The story in Minnesota was 40-year-old QB Brett Favre's post-retirement renaissance. After 17 years with the Green Bay Packers and a year with the New York Jets, the southern Mississippi native led the Vikings to a 12-4 record and a trouncing of the Dallas Cowboys in the Division Round of the NFC playoffs. Favre said he came back for one rea­son: a ticket to the Super Bowl in Miami. Brett sported a 17-1 record in games in domes.
The two NFC finalists had the top two scoring offenses in the NFL, combining for nearly 1,000 points and 12,500 total yards. Each won its playoff game the week before by 31 points.
Fox reporter Chris Myers, who worked for WWL in New Orleans in the 1980s, expressed these views about the game. "They're both the kinds of teams, when they get on a roll – whether it's the defense getting a sack or a quarterback hitting a receiver – it's a snowball effect in a positive way. ... If the Saints defense doesn't force the turnovers that they live on, then the Saints defense is going to have a tough time. I expect the Saints to be able to move the ball against a tough Vikings defense, and Drew Brees should be able to put up enough points."
Myers added, "I expect (the Superdome) to be the loudest it's ever been. I was here for the BCS Championship when LSU won (in 2007-8), and I expect it to be louder than that."
While the Saints had yet to reach the Super Bowl, Minnesota had played in the Big Game four times, losing them all.
"It's going to be a shootout," said Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe.
"We definitely want to start fast," said Saints All-Pro RG Jahri Evans, "and we want to put points up on the board, but you definitely don't want to be in a shootout. You want to be successful and get the job done early and just sustain it throughout the game. We have weapons, and we know they have weapons, too."

L: Darren Sharper tackles Adrian Peterson. R: Anthony Hargrave tugs on Brett Favre's jersey.
First Quarter
The game couldn't have started any better for the visitors. Minnesota took the opening kickoff and drove 80y to a touchdown. With many Vikings, including the quarterback, wear­ing earplugs to drown out the crowd noise, Favre went 6-for-6, all short completions, to move to the NO 25. From there, star RB Adrian Peterson carried twice for six and then 19 to break the scoring ice. Vikings 7 Saints 0 (9:35)
The Saints opening drive wasn't flawless, but it tied the score. Brees threw several in­completions but also hit a wide receiver screen to Robert Meachem for 7y and a first down before connecting with Marquess Colston down the middle for 13 more to the NO 49. RB Pierre Thomas zipped through right tackle for 9y. After an offside on Minnesota moved the chain to the 38, the Saints ran one of their patented screen passes. Thomas caught the ball on the right side. As G Jahri Evans blocked one and then a second defender, Pierre ran down the sideline to the 10 where he cut back into the end zone. Garrett Hartley booted the PAT. Vikings 7 Saints 7 (3:60)
Minnesota answered with a 10-play, 71y drive to retake the lead. Back-to-back penalties for offside and holding gave them a first down on their 43. Favre continued to throw quick passes to blunt the rush, including one to WR Bernard Berrian, who juked DB Tracy Por­ter and gained 15 to the NO 48. DE Bobby McCray gave the Vikes 15y with a late hit on Favre, part of the Saints strategy to hit the 40-year-old as often as possible to wear him down as the game progressed. Then on third-and-7, Brett fired down the middle to Harvin to the 8. That gave Favre the record for most postseason completions. On third-and six, he fogged the pigskin to lanky WR Sidney Rice standing in the middle of the end zone a yard beyond the goal line. Vikings 14 Saints 7 (2:11)
The momentum stayed with the visitors as the Saints went three-and-out. The quarter ended with a punt to the Minnesota 15.

L: Favre after Saints recover fumble. R: Brees passes as Jon Stinchcomb blocks.
Second Quarter
The Saints got a stop when they forced Favre to throw the ball away on third-and-two.
On third-and-10, Brees connected with Reggie Bush streaking across the middle for 28y to the Vikings 36. After Pierre Thomas gained four, TE David Thomas snagged an aerial to the 21. Two plays later, from the nine, WR Devery Henderson ran a post route from the right side, then turned and went back toward the sideline. Brees read it perfectly and hit the former LSU receiver for the touchdown. Vikings 14 Saints 14 (10:30)
The Vikings gained two first downs and nudged just across midfield before having to punt.
With both defenses hitting their stride, neither offense could move very far the rest of the half. But Minnesota got a huge break in the last 90 seconds of the half when Bush muffed a punt, and LB Kenny Onatolu recovered on the Saints 10. But two plays later, the Saints dodged a big bullet when Favre botched a handoff to Peterson, and LB Scott Fujita fell on the ball. That allowed the Saints to run out the clock.
Halftime score: Vikings 14 Saints 14
Third Quarter
It took the Saints just 2:14 to forge their first lead of the game. Courtney Roby got the drive going with a 61y kickoff return to the Minnesota 37. Brees fired a strike to TE David Thomas to the 20 for a quick first down. Then Pierre Thomas carried three straight times for six, ten, and four as he reached the ball across the goal. Replay showed that Thomas's knee was down at the four with the ball not yet over the goal. It would not be the last time a questionable officiating call or non-call would benefit the Saints. Hartley's PAT made it 21-14 Saints (12:56)
The lead didn't last long. Mixing passes and runs and surviving two Peterson fumbles and several hard hits on Favre, the Vikings drove 80y in nine plays. Favre hit Sidney Rice for 13, then went back to Shiancoe for 26 and 20 to the NO 30. After a 3y run, Favre tossed the ball toward the left pylon, and Shiancoe made a one-handed grab before going down at the 1. Peterson came back in and went over the left side into the end zone. Saints 21 Vikings 21 (7:35)
After the Saints went three-and-out, Minnesota started another drive into Saints terri­tory. Peterson gained 22y on two carries. Favre threw an incompletion but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Vikings a first down at the NO 47. On third-and-two, Brett threw down the middle for Rice, who bobbled the ball into the hands of LB Jonathan Vilma at the 31.
The Saints again could not make a first down, and Morstead boomed a 50y punt to the Minnesota 17 as the quarter ended.
Saints 21 Vikings 21

L: Tracey Porter celebrates his interception. R: Jabari Greer and Favre dive for fumble.
Fourth Quarter
The Saints were the best fourth quarter team in the NFL, scoring the most points in that period and giving up the least.
Bruised and battered, Favre limped onto the field, favoring his left ankle. Harvin quickly gained a first down at the 27. When he tried left end, DE Will Smith knocked the ball out of his hands. 320lb DT Remi Avondele picked up the pigskin at the 12 and rumbled to the 7.
After Pierre Thomas ran twice to make it third-and-five, Brees rolled away from cove­rage and spotted Bush running toward that sideline from the middle. Reggie caught the ball just before being tackled onto the pylon. The official ruled him short, but review overturned the call and gave the Saints the touchdown. Saints 28 Vikings 21 (12:39)
Minnesota started moving when Peterson zipped around right end for 27y to midfield. After two incompletions, Favre fired down the left side to Berrian, who was closely covered by Randall Gay. The play gained 30y to the NO 20. Two snaps later, Favre threw to Berri­an for 8y, but Porter knocked the ball out of the runner's hand, and Vilma recovered on the 28.
After the Saints went three-and-out, the Vikings drove 57 to the tying touchdown. The big gainers were Favre's pass to Shiancoe for 16 to the NO 37, Peterson's sprint through the right side for 18y to the 19, and a pass interference penalty on Porter that moved the ball to the 1. After losing a yard on first down, Peterson went through left guard untouched into the end zone. Saints 28 Vikings 28 (4:52)
With plenty of time to get at least a go-ahead field goal, the Saints instead went three-and-out. They escaped disaster when Brees was sacked and lost the ball. G Jahri Evans just beat a Viking defender to the pigskin for a loss of eight.
Now Minnesota had a chance to kick the winning field goal. They marched from their 28 to the NO 33 on the strength of Favre completions to Berrian for 10 and Rice 20, and RB Chester Taylor's 14y scamper.
With Vikings fans picturing a go-ahead field goal with little time left to go to the Super Bowl, the Saints stuffed two runs for no gain and benefitted from a 12 men on the field penalty that pushed the Vikings back 5y. With 19 seconds left on third down, Favre rolled to his right. Instead of running the ball and calling his final timeout, he committed the car­dinal sin of quarterbacks. He threw back across his body to the middle of the field, where Porter stepped in front of WR Rice and intercepted, returning to the 48 with 0:07 on the clock.
Minnesota Coach Brad Childress said, "It was a third-down play, and we elected to roll him because we wanted to get him clear. That was one turnover. We had five turnovers tonight. We leave the ball on the (Saints') 7 and 5. We hope to get at least three points there and got nothing. You can't have five turnovers against a team like this and expect it to come out good."
Two Brees incompletions sent the game to overtime. The Saints had gained only 77y in the second half. Saints 28 Vikings 28

L: Garrett Hartley boots winning field goal. R: Brees and Favre after game.
The Saints would benefit from a coin toss, several officials' calls, and three video reviews that all went their way.
Thomas got a good runback of the kickoff from the goal line to the 40. Then Pierre gained three and Bush one as the crowd groaned at the unimaginative play-calling. Drew threw to Colston at the left sideline, but he lost the ball when he hit the ground. But rookie DB Asher Allen was called for holding to give the Saints a new set of downs at their 48.
Brees avoided a loss on first down by getting rid of the ball just before being tackled. Then he threw again to Colston, who lost control of the ball as he went to the ground. SS Tyrell Johnson just missed an interception.
The shaky hands problem continued when Brees flipped to Henderson over the middle. He bobbled the ball but regained control as he went to ground, costing him a first down if he had fallen backward across the line to gain before he was hit from behind. The placement was reviewed and upheld to make it fourth down and 1/2y to go.
Coach Payton said go for it, knowing full well that if his offense failed to get the first down, Minnesota would be at midfield just 20y or so from a chance at the winning field goal.
Thomas leaped over the top at left tackle for 2y and the all-important first down at the Vikings 41 but not before another review and another call in favor of the home team.
Brees threw short for David Thomas in the left flat, but LB Ben Leber was called for pass interference to make it first down at the 29. Leber then made up for the call on the next snap by tackling Bush for a 5y loss as Reggie tried to sweep right end.
Brees again fired down the middle to Robert Meacham for 12y and a first down. Another shaky reception, another review, another "call stands."
Hoping to get closer for the field goal try, Brees rolled right but threw the ball away when no one was open.
On came K Garrett Hartley, who had been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season for using a banned substance. He had kicked just 25 field goal attempts in his brief NFL career.
After Minnesota called another timeout to "ice" him, Hartley sent Saints fans into Seventh Heaven by booming the ball high and straight between the uprights.
The jubilant Saints players mobbed Hartley as Black and Gold confetti rained down from the rafters as most of the crowd of 71,276, the largest to ever watch the Saints play in the Superdome, went into a frenzy.
"It's a moment that I've been waiting for a long time for," said Drew Brees, who com­pleted 17 of 31 passes for 197y and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Reggie Bush: "It wasn't pretty. It was ugly as matter of fact. But we got the win. I've never seen a field goal look so pretty in my entire life. ... This is a pretty surreal moment. Words just can't describe the feeling. When You think back to four years ago, coming back here post-Katrina, Sean Payton's first year, I remember the phone call that he gave me, telling me that he wants me to be their quarterback. I could never have imagined that things would have worked out the way that they have. But we had a goal, and we had a dream back then, and it was to have this opportunity to and play for a Super Bowl championship."
K Garrett Hartley admitted to battling a serious case of nerves the night before the game. He had missed a 37y field goal in the Week 16 overtime loss against Tampa Bay.
"Last night I really couldn't sleep too well. I called my dad at 2:15 in the morning, and I said, 'Dad, I have a feeling I'm going to hit a game-winner from 42y on the right hash. I think I was off by about 2y."
In the somber Vikings locker room, Favre's teammates walked to his locker, hugged him, whispered in his ear, and consoled him as he consoled them. The former Packer completed 28 of 46 passes for 310y and a touchdown but with two costly interceptions.
"We've had no three-turnover games this year," said Vikings Coach Brad Childress. "So to have five against a very good football team is very difficult to overcome."
Asked about the interception Favre threw with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter that ended a possible game-winning drive, Childress said, "I prefer to look at the positive. Watching 4 compete in purple and gold was great."
Childress side-stepped a question about whether Favre would play another year. "I told him to go home, lick his wounds. I'll do the same, and we'll catch up down the road. It was a gutty, gutty performance. I just thought that he did a nice job of competing. He would be the first to tell you that he wishes he had a couple of those throws back."