Saints survive Vikings in overtime, 31-28, to win NFC championship

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 25, 2010

For much of their history, the New Orleans Saints were losers -- sometimes lovable, often not. In recent years, they came to be regarded as a cherished civic treasure and a powerful symbol of the effort to rebuild and revitalize this city after it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Now the Saints are something entirely different: a Super Bowl team. They secured the first appearance in franchise history and delighted a boisterous crowd of 71,276 at the Superdome on Sunday by beating the Minnesota Vikings, 31-28, in overtime in an NFC title game to remember.

"It's a pretty surreal moment," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "Words can't describe it when you think back to coming here four years ago, post-Katrina. . . . It feels great."

Saints place kicker Garrett Hartley won it with a 40-yard field goal on the opening possession of overtime.

Brees threw three touchdown passes as the top-seeded Saints eliminated the second-seeded Vikings and advanced to a Super Bowl meeting with the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 7 in Miami.

The Saints ended the comeback season of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre a step shy of another Super Bowl appearance. Favre threw for 310 yards and a touchdown but didn't have quite enough magic left at the end, and limped around after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter.

Brees threw touchdown passes to running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and wide receiver Devery Henderson. Thomas also ran for a touchdown.

Running back Adrian Peterson ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings, and Favre threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Sidney Rice. But Favre also threw two interceptions, including one in the final seconds of regulation, and the Vikings finished with five turnovers. They also had a costly penalty at the end of regulation for having 12 players in their offensive huddle.

"We're bitterly disappointed and unfulfilled," Vikings Coach Brad Childress said. "It's hard to win games when you turn the ball over like that."

It was the first time since the 1993 season that the top playoff seed in each conference advanced to the Super Bowl.

Favre said after the game that he wasn't ready to decide immediately if he'll retire or play another season. Favre, who grew up in Mississippi as a Saints fan, said he was disappointed not to reach the Super Bowl but was glad to see the Saints make it if he and the Vikings couldn't.

"It was a physical game, a lot of hits," Favre said. "You win that and you sure feel a lot better."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company