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It was anything but easy for the Saints, in only their second conference championship game; they lost at Chicago three years ago.
They had to withstand yet one more comeback by Favre, who returned to the NFL with the Vikings (13-5) after another brief retirement. He was alternately spectacular and pedestrian Sunday, finally betrayed by his gambling style and, perhaps, an aging body.
Porter's pick sent it into overtime, the third time an NFC title game has needed extra time and the second in three seasons. Two years ago, Favre's interception in OT set up a field goal that sent the Giants past the Packers and into the Super Bowl.
The Saints can only hope they have the same happy ending as New York did back then.
"Yeah," said Reggie Bush, who scored a touchdown. "One more step."
The seesaw game saw All-Pro Adrian Peterson score three touchdowns for Minnesota and Saints running back Pierre Thomas get two. The Vikings handily won the possession and yardage battles -- Peterson rushed for 122 yards and Minnesota gained 475 overall. But the Vikings were undone by five turnovers, including three fumbles.
"We really gave those guys the game," said Peterson, who peeked at the rousing celebrations on the Superdome floor. "Too many turnovers. It's eating me up inside."
The seemingly indestructible Favre was hurt on one of those turnovers, on a combination hit by Bobby McCray and Remi Ayodele while throwing his first interception. And, despite being the closest Viking to the ball, he was helpless in the scramble to recover Percy Harvin's fumble that seemingly turned the game in New Orleans' favor early in the fourth period.
The Saints took over at the 7 and, on third down, Bush caught Brees' rollout pass by the right pylon. He was ruled out at the 1, but Payton sprinted almost to the goal line to throw the red flag.
The challenge was upheld, and the dome rocked like never before -- until Hartley's winning field goal.
But Favre has been in enough hostile environs to be able to shrug at such challenges. He hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for 16 yards, Peterson ripped off a 20-yard run, and a pass interference against Porter set up Peterson's tying 2-yard rush with 4:58 to go.
"I would have loved to represent the NFC," said Favre, who grew up in Mississippi a Saints fan. "But, as I told Sean throughout the year when we talked, if it's not us, I hope it's you guys."
NOTES: The crowd of 71,276 was the largest in the Superdome for a Saints game. ... Favre finished 28 of 46 for 310 yards. Brees went 17 of 31 for 197 yards and three TDs. ... With New Orleans having the only possession of overtime, it could spark more protests about the NFL's sudden-death overtime system.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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