Introducing A Quick Look Back, a series which will remind Vikings fans of a great (or possibly heart-wrenching) NFL moment involving that week’s opponent.
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This week, we look back at the New Orleans Saints. More specifically, the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
Quite simply, for Vikings fans younger than 25, this is the worst thing in team history.
Longtime Vikings foe Brett Favre did what was once considered unthinkable and put on purple in 2009. And the results were scintillating. Favre dazzled all year, finishing with over 4000 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in what turned out to be one of his finest seasons in a sea of many. At year’s end, the 40-year-old Favre finished fourth in MVP voting.
Young stud running back Adrian Peterson provided a powerful complement to the passing game, leading the league with 18 rushing touchdowns. The Vikings finished with the second-most explosive offense in the entire NFL, a record of 12-4 and a first round bye.
The only team more explosive was their opponent in the 2009 NFC Championship game. Led by Drew Brees and offensive savant Sean Payton, the Saints won their first 13 games of the season with Brees finishing as MVP runner-up.
As the two squads cruised into the NFC championship, another high-flying offense in Indianapolis sat in wait for their Super Bowl opponent. Fans tuned in expecting nothing less than a shootout at the Superdome.
Those fans were not disappointed, either. Minnesota got on the board first with an Peterson touchdown, but neither side ever built a two-score lead. Pierre Thomas caught a touchdown from Brees, Favre found Sidney Rice for a touchdown. Saints grabbed the lead with two scores, Vikings even it with another Peterson score. Then a Reggie Bush touchdown catch and a third Peterson run evened the score again.
The Vikings got the ball back with 2:42 left and Favre drove them down to the Saints 33-yard line, well within range for a Ryan Longwell field goal. Two runs for no gain later, they called timeout with 19 seconds remaining. Then they were called for 12 men in the huddle and backed up five yards. Now it was third and long. Though still in field goal range, they were pushing Longwell’s leg. That set up the fateful play.
There is one thing people should understand. Throughout Favre’s storied time in the NFL, fans of his have had to accept a reality: for every five spectacular throws that no one else can make, there will be one inexplicably ill-advised throw that costs his team the game. It is a big reason why the Packers won only one Super Bowl during his time in Green Bay. In 2009, he had largely avoided the horrible decisions. But on this night, he made his one excruciating throw, and it may be the worst of his career.
The Vikings needed about five yards to make Longwell’s potential game-winning kick more manageable. Favre wanted more.
He took the snap, pump faked and rolled to his right. He then threw across his body towards the middle of the field, hoping to find Rice. But Saints corner Tracy Porter undercut the route, intercepting the pass right around the first down marker.
For those who can stomach it, here is the video with the call from the great hometown voice Paul Allen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UUeqvquXZI
In overtime, the Saints won the coin toss and never looked back. A 40-yard kick return, a 10-play drive lengthened by two Viking penalties and a 40-yard Garrett Hartley field goal later, New Orleans was off to the Super Bowl and the Vikings were headed home.
The Saints would go on to defeat the Colts for their first Super Bowl championship. Minnesota has yet to win a playoff game since.
Check back next week when we unfortunately examine another heartbreaking moment in Vikings history: Super Bowl IX.