Brian Allee-Walsh

Eight years later, it's deja vu all over again for Saints and Vikings

Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh
Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh Biloxi

The senses are dulled and the memory blurred since the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings last played each other on the Road to the Super Bowl nearly eight years ago.

And while I have trouble recalling what I did two or three days ago, the sights and sounds of the afternoon of Jan. 24, 2010, inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, then known simply as the Louisiana Superdome, still remain loud and clear in my mind.

Not all three hours, 34 minutes, but certainly during the angst-filled climax when a soldout stadium went from stone silence to a deafening crescendo with each ebb and flow.

The moment kicker Garrett Hartley booted the Saints to their first NFC championship and into Super Bowl XLIV, the game became an instant NFL classic.

His 40-yard FG with 10:15 remaining in OT lifted the Black and Gold to a 31-28 victory, made possible by an interception by corrnerback Tracy Porter in the final seconds of regulation with future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre driving his team into field goal range.

The Saints won the toss, took the ball and Favre could only stand and watch helplessly on the sideline as quarterback Drew Brees engineered the winning 10-play, 39-yard drive.

Truth be told, it was the Vikings' game to win in regulation. If — and it's a big if — Favre goes to the ground after being chased from the pocket, instead of violating a cardinal rule in football and throwing against his body into the middle of the field.

And ultimately Into Porter's waiting arms.

If Favre keeps the ball or throws it away, the Vikings still had a timeout and would have been in a position to attempt a long field goal for the win.

That game must still gnaw at Favre, especially since it turned out to be his last best shot at playing in his third Super Bowl (XXXI, XXXII). He retired a year later after 20 record-filled NFL seasons, including 1-1 in roman-numeral games.

So here we are, eight years later, with these two franchises set to meet in the divisional round at 3:40 p.m. Sunday inside U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Many of Sunday's participants on both sides were teenagers in January 2009, owning dreams of one day being on this national stage.

Brees, the victorious MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, remains under center for the Saints. He will be making his 13th playoff start, the last 11 with the Saints (7-4 record).

His counterpart in Minnesota is quarterback Case Keenum, a backup now playing a starring role who'll be making his first playoff appearance.

Favre, now 48, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and continues to make his home state of Mississippi proud.

Brees turns 39 Monday and would like to blow out the candles on Minnesota's conference championship and Super Bowl dreams a second time.

Can I get a Two-Dat!

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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