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Bleacher Report – Vikings

The forgotten mistake of the 2009 NFC Championship Game

By Matthew Coller

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Heartbreak anniversary.

Brett Favre’s interception on January 24, 2010 with 19 seconds remaining in the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints will forever hold a place among the most gut-punching moments of Minnesota sports history, but there’s a gaffe that goes forgotten when Vikings fans reflect on the devastating 31-28 overtime loss – a mistake that would have prevented the interception from ever happening.

Before the interception, Favre made two brilliant throws, one for 10 yards on a 3rd-and-8, then a 20-yard completion to Sidney Rice to get the Vikings to midfield. After Rice’s catch, the Vikings oped to run up to the line of scrimmage rather than call a timeout. They caught New Orleans off guard with a Chester Taylor 14-yard run up the middle, which set the Vikings up a the Saints’ 33-yard line with 1:06 left and in range for kicker Ryan Longwell.

Brad Childress elected to play it safe and hand the ball to Taylor on first down, then give it to Adrian Peterson on second down. Neither could gain a yard, setting up 3rd-and-10.

The Vikings took a timeout with 19 seconds remaining.

“Longwell was consistently hitting from 52 in pregame,” Joe Buck said on the telecast.

The next play was obvious: Call another run to Peterson, set the kicker up on whichever hash he felt most comfortable and hope he can nail a 50-yard field goal.

Favre was shown standing around, wiping his hands on his towel, chinstrap undone, ready to win and move on to the Super Bowl.

Then this happened:

Count ’em up. There are 12 men in the huddle.

Favre looks at the sideline, the sideline is scrambling, Favre tries to call timeout, but it’s too late. The flags are thrown and the ball is moved back to the 38, out of Longwell’s range.

“I think the Vikings are compelled to throw the ball here,” Buck said.

“What we’re going to see from New Orleans is they are going to bring pressure and make Favre get the ball out of his hands,” Troy Aikman responded.

Aikman notes that the Vikings were probably trying to fool the Saints with personnel. So instead of simply lining up and pounding it up the middle, they tried to toss in one last wrinkle.

On the final Vikings offensive play, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma spots some confusion on the defensive side. He appears to signal for timeout, but it wasn’t granted.

Favre has an easy throw right in front of him (top of the screen) or he could have run with the ball and easily gained the five yards back.

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After Tracy Porter intercepts his throw across the middle, Favre looks to the sky. A teammate slaps him on the helmet to say, “It’s OK, man.”

We don’t have access to the 2009 coaches film, but something worth wondering is whether Rice was open. A flash on the FOX broadcast from behind the receiver makes it appear there was daylight. If Favre hadn’t suffered an ankle injury earlier in the game, maybe the throw would have been on the money instead of floating into Porter’s hands.

As the Saints line up with :07 left on the clock, Buck says the Vikings could have run it because they had a timeout remaining. If they hadn’t taken a 12 men in the huddle penalty, that would have been true.

The remainder of the game was a slow bleed. Three of the first eight plays in overtime were reviewed by officials, including a 12-yard catch that put the Saints in field goal range.

The ’09 NFC title game has to go down and one of the all-time regret games. Of the final seven drives by the Vikings, five of them ended in turnovers.

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The Vikings managed 31 first downs to the Saints’ 15 and out-gained them 475 to 257 yards. Favre and the offense went 7-for-12 on third downs, compared to Drew Brees’ 3-for-12. Adrian Peterson carried the ball 25 times for 122 yards and three touchdowns, while the Saints combined for 68 yards rushing. Minnesota was even less penalized than New Orleans.

Maybe the most surprising stat was that Favre was not sacked. Incredible considering the game became known for the Saints attempting to take his head off.

The other oddity is that New Orleans had struggled with kickers in the ’09 regular season. They cut 45 year old John Carney, then signed Garrett Hartley, who hadn’t made a field goal over 40 yards during the regular season.

And of course, there’s the NFL overtime rules that were later changed because Favre never got a shot to get on the field in overtime.

If you’re an unbiased observer, you’d say the ’09 championship game is one of the most fascinating, compelling and memorable games in history. If you’re a Vikings fan, you just shake your head in amazement.

The post The forgotten mistake of the 2009 NFC Championship Game appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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