#3 - 2009 NFC Championship: Saints - 31 vs. Vikings - 28 (OT)
A matchup of the top two seeds in the NFC, both coming off dominant performances in the divisional round, this game did not disappoint in the slightest. Despite these two teams combining for just one win over the last three weeks of the season, they were clearly the class of the NFC in 2009. The New Orleans Saints had started 13-0, the longest winning streak in franchise history, and the Minnesota Vikings started 11-2, enough to win the NFC North despite dropping two of their last three to allow the Saints to clinch the top seed in the conference for the first time ever.
This game went back and forth all day, as neither team went up by more than one score and was able to match one another blow for blow. The game of course featured two Hall of Fame quarterbacks having the best seasons of their career up to that point. Brett Favre, despite it being his 19th year in the NFL had the best season of his career, helped in part by an uncharacteristic low of 7 interceptions on the year, the only year in which he was a starter that he threw fewer than 13 picks. Favre was looking to return to the Super Bowl for the third time in his career.
Drew Brees was in his fourth year under Sean Payton in New Orleans, and was the league leader in touchdowns, completion percentage, and rating. Brees and the Saints were each looking for their first Super Bowl appearance.
The first three drives of the game all resulted in touchdowns, and the Saints would later tie the game at 14 with 10:37 left in the first half. Both offenses would stall for the remainder of the half, and helped by a Scott Fujita fumble recovery on 2nd and goal, the game would go to the locker room still tied at 14 all.
The Saints would get an excellent kick return from Courtney Roby to set them up at the Vikings 37 on their first drive of the game which they would turn into a Pierre Thomas touchdown. The Vikings went right down the field however, covering 90 yards in 9 plays topped off by a 1-yard Adrian Peterson touchdown run to tie the game at 21. This is where the madness started.
The Saints would stop a good Viking drive with a Jonathan Vilma interception on their own 28 yard line, and on their next series force a fumble which would set the Saints offense up at the Vikings 7 yard line. Three plays later Reggie Buch would give the Saints the lead with with just over 12 minutes to play. The Saints defense would cause yet another fumble on the next Vikings drive, recovered by Vilma. The defense stepping up was the thing keeping the Saints in this game, as their league leading offense would ultimately go three and out four times in the second half.
Favre and Peterson would eventually put a drive together to tie the game, and after yet another three and out from the Saints aided by a sack on first down, Favre took over needing just three points with 2:37 left to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 12 years.
Favre was famously a gunslinger, as he finished his career as the all-time leader in interceptions by nearly 60 picks over second all-time. This season though, Favre had flipped the script, throwing just 7 interceptions in total and just 4 since Week 8 of the season. On what would be his final pass attempt of the season however, the old Favre showed himself once again.
The Vikings sat on the Saints 33 yard line in a tie game with a 1st and 10 with 1:07 left in the game and the Saints having no timeouts. After two run plays got no yards, the Vikings committed a 12 men in the huddle penalty and were backed up to the Saints 38, turning what would have been a 51 yard field goal into a 56 yarder. On 3rd and 15, the Vikings inexplicably call a passing play with 19 seconds and one timeout left. Favre rolled out to his right and could have gained the penalty yards back if he had just ran with it, but instead threw it back across his body into traffic. The pass would be intercepted by Tracy Porter in what was the biggest play of the corner’s career for about two weeks. We’ll get to that later.
The Saints would win the toss in overtime and their offense would finally get moving, driving to the Vikings 22 setting up a Garrett Hartley field goal to send them to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Watch highlights of the game here
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