It wasn’t always pretty, but it was epic.
In a draining game that will be talked about as long as we’re all alive, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime Sunday to advance to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Garett Hartley hit a 40-yard game winner after a short and halting drive by the Saints to open overtime. The 10-play, 39-yard drive included two Vikings penalties and three plays upheld after review.
The overtime almost felt an epilogue after the painful end to regulation for Vikings fans.
In position for a game-winning field goal, the Vikings botched their trip to Miami with a comedy of errors.
First, Brad Childress was far too conservative in setting up for a long field goal when his offense was pushing the Saints around. Then the Vikings somehow sent 12 men into the huddle after a timeout on the biggest play of the year.
And then, on third-and-15 from the Saints 38-yard line, Favre happened.
After a season of being so careful with the ball, Favre made the throw you absolutely can’t make with everything on the line. Making it more painful: he had a gain on the ground available if he wanted it.
The final throw for Favre was fitting on a day that included five Vikings fumbles and five turnovers. Minnesota gained 475 total yards to only 257 for the Saints.
In the end, this wasn’t a game about statistics. It was two teams frenetically going back and forth, often feeling the pressure, but always going full tilt.
It was about two tortured fanbases expecting the worse, the Vikings fans being right, and Saints fans going somewhere they’ve never been before.
No matter what happens in Miami, January 24, 2010 will be a day that is always remembered in New Orleans. Saints fans will be able to say forty years from now where they were when Hartley hit his kick.
We suspect that football fans all over the country, no matter who they root for, will be able to do the same.