New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28 OT It seems like it was fated. Who dat did it. Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Devery Henderson, Jonathan Vilma, Tracy Porter and Garrett Hartley were the heroes. Brett Favre was so close, but two interceptions came back to cost him in this game. Adrian Peterson didn't help things either.
It was great for the city of New Orleans which has relied on the Saints for their resurgence from Hurricane Katrina. The team delivered. It was moving. The Saints are going to Miami and Sun Life Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44. The Colts defeated the Jets earlier in the day, 30-17. KIckoff is set for 5:25 CST on CBS. Indianapolis is an early four point favorite.
In the first quarter, it didn't look like the Saints would ever get the lead or that they would ever stop the Vikings. But they kept coming back. Adrian Peterson was running over the Saints and Favre was throwing darts. Minnesota went up 7-0 on aPeterson 19-yard td run, but the Saints came back with Pierre Thomas–who was huge in the game– on a 38-yard td catch. It was a short screen that Thomas broke some tackles on and sprinted into the end zone. It was beautiful.
Favre came right back with a five yard TD pass to Sidney Rice, a terrific wide receiver. The Vikings have a lot of them. They went up 14-7.
Brees came right back and took his team down the field. He dropped back from the Vikings nine, scrambled around to the right and found Henderson in the right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 14.
The teams traded some three and outs and then a key sequence happened late in the second quarter. With a little over a minute left, Bush was receiving a punt at his own 14. He looked like he wasn't sure if he wanted to fair catch it or run with it. He decided he wanted to catch it and run, but he never caught the ball cleanly and right before he was hit he fumbled. Kenny Onatolu recovered it for the Vikes at the NO 10.
Adrian Peterson had a short carry. Then the Vikings made a major mistake. Favre tried to hand off to Peterson, but they botched the exchange. From the replay it looked like Peterson didn't have his arms open wide enough for the handoff, and it hit the ground with Scott Fujita recovering for the Saints. Favre got charged with the fumble, but it looked more like Peterson's bust. NO avoided a catastrophe and the teams were tied at 14 at halftime.
Courtney Roby's 61-yard kick off return to start the third quarter led to a Pierre Thomas nine yard run to put the Saints ahead finally 21-14.
The Vikes got it back. Peterson almost cost them again. He fumbled at the NO 45. Luckily for him and the Vikings, fullback Naufahu Tahi recovered it at the 50. Favre then connected with Visanthe Shiancoe for 20 yards to the NO 30. Later, Favre and Shiancoe connected for another 21 yards with Shiancoe making a beautiful catch at the NO 1. Peterson took it over from there and the game was tied at 21.
Vilma made a key interception of a Favre pass at the NO 28 to stop a drive late in the third. The quarter ended with the teams tied at 21.
In the fourth, Harvin fumbled at the Minnesota 22, the ball trickled backwards and New Orleans' tackle Remi Ayodele recovered it and ran it to the Vikings' seven. Three plays later, Brees and Bush hooked up for a seven yard score to put the Saints ahead 28-21 with over 12 minutes left.
The Vikings moved it down to the NO 18, but on second and eight at the New Orleans after Bernard Berrian caught a Favre pass at the NO 10, Tracy Porter punched the ball out and Vilma recovered. After the Saints couldn't move it, the Vikes got it back and moved it to the NO 19. On first and 10, Favre lofted it to the end zone intending to get it to Berrian. Porter interfered and the Vikes were at the NO one. Peterson lost a yard then took it over from two yards out to tie the game at 28 with five minutes left.
New Orleans again couldn't move the ball and the Vikings got it back at their 21 with 2:37 left. Favre moved them down the field with two key plays, a 20-yard pass to Sidney Rice and a Chester Taylor 14 yard run that got the Vikings to the NO 33 and a chance for a game winning field goal. After two plays that netted no yards and a five yard penalty, the Vikes faced a third and 15 from the NO 38. Favre rolled out right and looked like he could run for five or seven yards and put his team in good positing for the field goal, but instead he threw across the field for Rice. Porter stepped in front of Rice and intercepted it at the Saints' 22 and returned it 26 yards to the Vikings' 48. The game ended tied in regulation.
NO won the coin toss which was huge. Pierre Thomas, the star of the game, returned the kickoff 4o yards setting NO up first and ten at their own 39. He received the kick one yard deep in end zone.
After two short runs, Brees attempted a pass to Colston who dropped it, but Minnesota was called for defensive holding. After two incompletions, Favre completed a nine-yard pass to Henderson. He was just short of the first down. Payton went for it on fourth and one as he should have and Thomas leaped over the pile getting the first down. They reviewed the spot as Thomas had juggled it leaping over the pile but it was ruled that he passed the marker and NO had it first and ten at the Vikings' 41.
Ben Leber was called for pass interference on tight end David Thomas setting NO up at Vikes 29. On second and 15 at the Vikes'34, Favre found Robert Meachem for 12 yards putting the Saints at the Vikes 22. That play was also reviewed on whether it was a catch. It was very close, but impossible to overturn. After a Brees incompletion on third and three, Hartley drilled the 40-yard kick to send the Saints to the Super Bowl. New Orleans was rocking.
It's great for the city. It's great for Drew Brees and Sean Payton, who have done so much for New Orleans and have been committed to the organization. And for players like Thomas, Vilma and Porter, the unsung heroes of the game.
Now the Saints play a TNT-like offense in Indy.
Peyton was 26-of-39 for 377 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Pierre Garcon, from Haiti, was huge. He corralled 11 catches for 151 yards and a td. Austin Collie was just as important, catching seven passes for 123 yards and a td, a real important one before halftime, a 16-yarder with 1:13 to cut the lead to 17-13.
The Colts rolled in the second half.
An exciting Super Bowl is in store. Manning vs Brees, both New Orleans guys; Manning being originally from New Orleans and Brees calling it home today. The defenses will be extremely tested and spread out.
There are so many variables: who will be better that day, Manning or Brees, which offensive line can pass protect better, which running back can play better and maybe, most importantly, which defense can make enough stops and create turnovers to help the offense. Should be a gem.