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New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings: Recalling the NFC Championship

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New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings, NFC Championship, Jan 24 2010, Derick E. Hingle- USA Today Sports

As the New Orleans Saints prepare to take on the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday for the Black and Gold’s home opener in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, let’s take a quick look back at one of the biggest games in franchise history.

It was January 24, 2010 and the Saints were in the NFC Championship game for the second time ever in their then 43-year existence.  After a 13-0 start to the season, fans were left with the idea that this was their year.

The Brett Favre-led Vikings made their way to the Crescent City with a 12-4 record against a 13-3 New Orleans team after Sean Payton and company gave up losses during the final three contests of the season.  As the game that would send only one team to the Super Bowl got underway, it was nail-biter from start to finish.

Minnesota scored on the opening drive with an Adrian Peterson touchdown, but the Saints immediately responded when QB Drew Brees hit RB Pierre Thomas with a pass that turned into a 38-yard score.

On the following drive, Favre found WR Sidney Rice in the end-zone to put the Vikings up 14-7 to end the first quarter.  On the first drive of the second quarter, New Orleans scored to tie the game as Brees found WR Devery Henderson.

Minnesota was later given an opportunity when Reggie Bush muffed a punt that the Vikings recovered in Saints’ territory.  However, just a couple of plays later, Peterson fumbled a handoff from Favre that was recovered by Black and Gold linebacker Scott Fujita with just seconds left in the first half.  The two teams entered their locker rooms with a halftime score of 14-14.

The Saints started the second half with a quick scoring drive that was set up by a beautiful 61-yard kick return by special teams connoisseur Courtney Roby.  Pierre Thomas scored his second touchdown of the game, giving New Orleans their first lead of the evening.

The Vikings offense immediately responded as Favre through three strikes to TE Visanthe Shiancoe for 67 yards of an 80-yard drive that eventually resulted in another Adrian Peterson score, tying the game at 21.

New Orleans was forced to punt on the next drive and Minnesota drove right back down the field.  However, linebacker Jonathan Vilma ended it early by picking off a Favre pass intended for Rice.  The Vikings then again forced another punt, but the Saints managed another takeaway as DE Will Smith forced a fumble on WR Percy Harvin that was recovered and returned into red-zone territory by Remi Ayodele.

Following the turnover, the Saints regained the lead after Brees found Reggie Bush for a touchdown.  The play was initially ruled down at the 1-yard line, but New Orleans challenged the spot and was given the six points to give the home team a 28-21 lead.

Minnesota once again drove the ball down the field with a couple of big plays by Peterson and WR Bernard Berrian.  However, Berrian eventually fumbled a ball that was knocked loose by CB Tracy Porter and recovered by Vilma.  The Vikings quickly forced a punt to start a drive that ended with Peterson’s third touchdown of the game to tie the contest at 28.

After forcing another punt, Minnesota got the ball back with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.  Stomachs started twisting in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the Vikings inched closer and closer to field goal territory, but the game was far from over.

Minnesota found themselves on the 33-yard line, but was held to no gain on the first two downs.  The Vikings were soon penalized for having 12 men on the field, resulting in the loss of five yards and being pushed back to the 38.

They decided to go with a pass to get kicker Ryan Longwell in closer range, but QB Brett Favre attempted an awkward, desperate throw across his body that resulted in a Tracy Porter interception, sending the game into overtime.  The dome was rocking.  I couldn’t hear myself screaming, but that could be because my voice was hoarse for going at it the entire night.

Well, New Orleans won the coin toss to begin sudden death overtime, and they weren’t giving up the ball.  After a fourth-down conversion by Pierre Thomas and the help of some Vikings penalties, Brees found WR Robert Meachem to put the Saints into field goal territory.

I think we all know what happened next — as the Dome silenced and fluttering butterflies began to fill the bellies of every individual in that stadium, kicker Garrett Hartley‘s foot found the ball.  It seems like what took a lifetime took just a couple of seconds as fans dropped to their knees and began crying tears of joy as the ball sailed through the uprights to send the New Orleans Saints to their first ever Super Bowl in the history of the organization.

WWL radio personality Jim Henderson, who broadcasts the games alongside color analyst Hokie Gajan, will always be remembered for his famous words “It’s good!  It’s good!  It’s gooooooood!  Pigs have flown, hell has froze over, the Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl!”

We may not be fighting for a Super Bowl berth on Sunday, but we are fighting for our first win of the season.  So let’s keep that streak in the Dome going and get that initial victory to set the tone for the rest of the year.

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