Final/OT

Vikings 28

(12-4, 4-4 away)

Saints 31

(13-3, 6-2 home)

Coverage: FOX

6:40 PM ET, January 24, 2010

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA 

1 2 3 4 OT T
MIN 14 0 7 7 028
NO 7 7 7 7 331

Top Performers

Passing: B. Favre (MIN) - 310 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: A. Peterson (MIN) - 25 CAR, 122 YDS, 3 TD

Receiving: B. Berrian (MIN) - 9 REC, 102 YDS

Saints seal trip to Super Bowl after Favre throws late interception

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- A 40-yard field goal in overtime by a little-known kicker could become as famous as jambalaya in these parts.

The New Orleans Saints, a team with no home and an uncertain future five years ago, are heading for their first Super Bowl. By battering Brett Favre and beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 Sunday, they set off celebrations on Bourbon Street that locals never could have imagined in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

More from ESPN.com

The Vikings' loss in the NFC title game will be a painful memory for Brett Favre, writes Gene Wojciechowski. Story


The team that once was called the Aints and had fans wearing bags over their heads, is going to the Super Bowl, writes Pat Yasinskas. Blog

• Clayton: Super Os set
• Pasquarelli: Saints thwart Favre
• Seifert: Peterson Up And Down

"This is for everybody in this city," said coach Sean Payton, the architect of the Saints' turnaround. "This stadium used to have holes in it and used to be wet. It's not wet anymore. This is for the city of New Orleans."

And it came courtesy of Garrett Hartley and the Aints -- who surely ain't the Aints anymore.

"In reality, we had to lean on each other in order to survive and in order to get where we are now," quarterback Drew Brees said. "The city is on its way to recovery, and in a lot of ways has come back better than ever. We've used the strength and resiliency of our fans to go out and play every Sunday and play with the confidence that we can do it, that we can achieve everything we've set out to achieve."

Favre threw away Minnesota's best chance to win, tossing an interception deep in New Orleans territory in the closing seconds of regulation. Then the Saints won the coin toss and ended it on Hartley's kick 4:45 into OT.

Déjà Vu

Brett Favre's season ended in similar fashion to his end to the 2007 season -- with a late INT that helped seal his team's loss.

Favre's last two NFC Championship Games
2007
vs. NYG
2009
vs. NO
Passer rating 70.7 70.0
Last pass INT INT
Result L, 23-20 (OT) L, 31-28 (OT)

"Just helping my team get to Miami," he said. "Just doing my part."

A team of nomads after Katrina ravaged its city and the Superdome, overcame a slew of mistakes in the biggest game the Big Easy has ever seen.

Forget the paper bag masks and that long history of losing that started in 1967. Moments after Hartley's kick, they were toasting their hometown winners in the French Quarter and making plans for South Florida.

The Saints (15-3) will meet Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (16-2) in the Super Bowl in two weeks in Miami. The Colts opened as 4-point favorites.

"Brett prepared us, but now we've got another challenge in Peyton," safety Darren Sharper said.

And in the Superdome, once a squalid refuge after Katrina, they boogied in the aisles as confetti covered the field.

"It's a moment I've been waiting for for a long time and obviously we're not done yet," said Brees, Payton's hand-picked QB for the Saints' renaissance.

It's the first time the top seeds in each conference made the big game since the 1993 season.

There were nine fumbles and two interceptions, and the biggest mistake belonged to Favre. Flushed from the pocket in the final minute, he seemed to have room to run to set up a field goal. But hampered by a left leg injured in the third quarter, he threw cross-field and was intercepted by Tracy Porter at the 22.

That finished off Minnesota's chance for its first Super Bowl trip in 33 years -- and opportunity to win it for the first time after four defeats. The Vikings have lost five straight NFC title games.

"I've felt better," said Favre, who looked every bit his 40 years. "It was a physical game. A lot of hits. You win that and you sure feel a lot better."

New Orleans won the coin toss, Brees guided it to the Minnesota 22 after converting a fourth-and-1 on Pierre Thomas' leap over the line, and Hartley -- suspended at the start of the season for using a banned stimulant -- split the uprights.

"It was as loud as I have ever heard it in the dome," Brees added. "It feels so good to know we have given our fans an NFC championship. We have another championship to go after in two weeks."

It was anything but easy for the Saints, in only their second conference championship game; they lost at Chicago three years ago.

They had to withstand yet one more comeback by Favre, who returned to the NFL with the Vikings (13-5) after another brief retirement. He was alternately spectacular and pedestrian Sunday, betrayed by his gambling style and, perhaps, an aging body.

Porter's pick sent it into overtime, the third time an NFC title game has needed extra time and the second in three seasons. Two years ago, Favre's interception in OT set up a field goal that sent the Giants past the Packers and into the Super Bowl.

The Saints can only hope they have the same happy ending as New York did back then.

Fast Facts

• The Saints advanced to their first Super Bowl and became the first home team to win a conference championship game in overtime.

• This is the first time since 1993 that the two No. 1 seeds will face off in the Super Bowl.

• Brett Favre threw two interceptions to take over the record for the most INTs by a QB in postseason history with 30. He also set the record for career postseason passing yards and career postseason pass completions.

• Garrett Hartley won the game with a 40-yard field goal, joining Rich Karlis, Morten Andersen and Lawrence Tynes as the only kickers to win a conference title game with an OT field goal.

• The Vikings had six fumbles, two shy of the single-game postseason record.

• Adrian Peterson tied a conference championship record and set a Vikings postseason record with three rushing TDs.

• Rapid Reaction

-- ESPN Stats & Information

"Yeah," said Reggie Bush, who scored a touchdown. "One more step."

The seesaw game saw All-Pro Adrian Peterson score three touchdowns for Minnesota and Saints running back Thomas get two. The Vikings handily won the possession and yardage battles -- Peterson rushed for 122 yards and Minnesota gained 475 overall. But the Vikings were undone by five turnovers, including three fumbles.

"We really gave those guys the game," said Peterson, who peeked at the rousing celebrations on the Superdome floor. "Too many turnovers. It's eating me up inside."

The seemingly indestructible Favre was hurt on one of those turnovers, on a combination hit by Bobby McCray and Remi Ayodele while throwing his first interception. And, despite being the closest Viking to the ball, he was helpless in the scramble to recover Percy Harvin's fumble that seemingly turned the game in New Orleans' favor early in the fourth period.

The Saints took over at the 7 and, on third down, Bush caught Brees' rollout pass by the right pylon. He was ruled out at the 1, but Payton sprinted almost to the goal line to throw the red flag.

The challenge was upheld, and the dome rocked like never before -- until Hartley's winning field goal.

But Favre has been in enough hostile environments to be able to shrug at such challenges. He hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for 16 yards, Peterson ripped off a 20-yard run, and a pass interference against Porter set up Peterson's tying 2-yard rush with 4:58 to go.

"I would have loved to represent the NFC," said Favre, who grew up in Mississippi a Saints fan. "But, as I told Sean throughout the year when we talked, if it's not us, I hope it's you guys."

Notes
The crowd of 71,276 was the largest in the Superdome for a Saints game. ... Favre finished 28 of 46 for 310 yards. Brees went 17 of 31 for 197 yards and three TDs. ... With New Orleans having the only possession of overtime, it could spark more protests about the NFL's sudden-death overtime system.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
MIN
NO
1st Downs3115
Passing 1st downs
178
Rushing 1st downs
104
1st downs from penalties
43
3rd down efficiency
7-123-12
4th down efficiency
0-01-1
Total Plays8255
Total Yards475257
Yards per play5.84.7
Total Drives1215
Passing310189
Comp-Att
28-4617-31
Yards per pass
6.75.9
Interceptions thrown
20
Sacks-Yards Lost
0-01-8
Rushing16568
Rushing Attempts
3623
Yards per rush
4.63.0
Red Zone (Made-Att)4-63-3
Penalties5-329-88
Turnovers51
Fumbles lost
31
Interceptions thrown
20
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession36:4927:56

Passing Leaders

MINC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Favre28/463106.7120-0
NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees17/311976.4301-8

Rushing Leaders

MINCARYDSAVGTDLG
Peterson251224.9327
Taylor6284.7014
NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Thomas14614.4112
Bush781.106

Receiving Leaders

MINRECYDSAVGTDLG
Berrian910211.3030
Shiancoe48320.8026
NORECYDSAVGTDLG
Henderson4399.8116
Thomas23819.0138

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERMINNO
minTD9:41Adrian Peterson 19 Yard Run (Ryan Longwell Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yds, 5:25
70
noTD6:42Pierre Thomas 38 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 76 yds, 3:05
77
minTD2:16Sidney Rice 5 Yard Pass From Brett Favre (Ryan Longwell Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 73 yds, 4:19
147
SECOND QUARTERMINNO
noTD10:37Devery Henderson 9 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 64 yds, 2:51
1414
THIRD QUARTERMINNO
noTD13:05Pierre Thomas 9 Yard Run (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 37 yds, 2:04
1421
minTD7:40Adrian Peterson 1 Yard Run (Ryan Longwell Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 5:21
2121
FOURTH QUARTERMINNO
noTD12:48Reggie Bush 5 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 7 yds, 1:31
2128
minTD5:03Adrian Peterson 2 Yard Run (Ryan Longwell Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 57 yds, 2:59
2828
OVERTIMEMINNO
noFG10:19Garrett Hartley 40 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 39 yds, 4:45
2831