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The Minnesota Vikings outgained and outmuscled the New Orleans Saints but five turnovers cost the Vikes a trip to Super Bowl XLIV in a 31-28 overtime loss. The NFC Championship game saw both teams have plenty of opportunities to seize control of the game but ultimately, New Orleans made fewer mistakes.
Amazingly, the Saints managed to win this game despite the following:
- Outgained 475 to 257.
- Outrushed 165 to 68.
- 3 for 12 on third down conversions
- Committing more penalties than Minnesota (9-88)
Yet, this game swung on a few critical points. Minnesota turned over the ball five times but committed two of those turnovers inside the 10 yard line. Of course, everyone will point at the errant Brett Favre throw towards the end of regulation that was intercepted by New Orleans’ Tracy Porter. However, the true backbreaking play for the Vikings though was the 12-men on the field penalty leading up to the pick.
Prior to the penalty, the Vikings had a third and 10 from the Saints’ 33. The penalty changed the complexion of the entire drive. Minnesota had some flexibility from a playcalling standpoint with an even option for a draw that would have given them a manageable field goal try.
Instead, the penalty pushed them back to the Saints 38 and then forces the Vikings to throw the ball. In the postgame press conference, Favre said in hindsight that he should have run but realistically on a bum ankle how well would that have worked?
Give New Orleans credit though. They had no business winning that game the way it evolved. Sean Payton did not have his best game calling the shots for the New Orleans offense. On the flip side, the Saints defense did very little right on the day except for two major things. They forced five turnovers and punished Favre when he dropped back to throw. Plus, some shaky officiating didn’t hurt either.
The Saints advance to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl where the proverbial blue and white anvil may drop on their collective head in two weeks versus the Colts.
Meanwhile to you Vikings fans, this is a tough pill to swallow. It’s just as bad as Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the ’98 NFC title game because this Vikings team had numerous chances to win this game even after the mistakes; and perhaps, even worse they were the better team. The Saints proved to be the more opportunistic of the two.
It’s going to be a long and bitter offseason in Minnesota.