The day after the NFC Championship was all about the interception Brett Favre threw on third down in questionable field goal range. The interception gave most people flashbacks to the 2007 NFC Championship Game when Favre was still with Green Bay playing the New York Giants.
Many people lay most of the blame for the loss at the feet of Favre. The amazing thing is why that one play by Favre leaves the lasting impression the loss was his fault entirely.
Favre's pass did not cost the Vikings a win over the New Orleans Saints. Minnesota fans and the media should look at the game this way. Not to take anything away from New Orleans, but here are five reasons why the interception by Favre did not lose this game.
Six Fumbles overall and three lost fumbles by Vikings' skill players
Even before the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 14-14, the Vikings were able to come up with the first turnover of the game. Reggie Bush fumbled a punt return on his own 10-yard line, which was recovered by Kenny Onatolu.
With a little more than a minute left in the half, Minnesota looked all but guaranteed of at least three points. On first down, the Vikings handed off to Adrian Peterson who ran down to the four-yard line.
On second down, it looked as if Minnesota only had to pound the ball into the end zone for a seven-point halftime lead, when the Vikings fumble-itis started. Even though the fumble was credited as Favre’s, it looked as if Peterson started to close his arms early before they were wrapped around the ball; it was recovered by the Saints Scott Fajita.
Instead of Minnesota getting a three- or seven-point lead before halftime, New Orleans recovered the fumble and escaped, tied at 14-14. The second half would not get any better for Minnesota and Peterson in particular.
By no means was Peterson done with dropping the ball. This time, he fumbled on the New Orleans 45-yard line. However, Vikings fullback Naufahu Tahi had Peterson’s back and recovered the fumble.
Peterson would fumble again, but this time, he was able to make up for his own mistake, hauling in the ball at the Minnesota 32-yard line. Even though the Vikings running back would rush for 122 yards, he should be remembered for his ability to not hold on to the ball.
For those keeping count, that is four fumbles in less than one quarter for Peterson. But the fumbling disease was not just contained to Peterson alone.
The Vikings Percy Harvin got into the act in the beginning of the fourth quarter. He fumbled at the Minnesota 12-yard line; New Orleans' Remi Ayodele returned the ball to the seven-yard line.
Three plays later, the Saints would cash in Harvin’s fumble for a touchdown and a seven-point lead at 28-21. It was the second time New Orleans lead in the game, but more on that later.
Fumbling the ball on handoffs were not the only problem for Minnesota players. On a second and eight at the Saints 18-yard line, Favre threw a completed pass to Bernard Berrian.
That is when Berrian decided to cough up the ball and the chance at what looked like another touchdown. The Saints’ Jonathan Vilma recovered the fumble at the New Orleans five-yard line, turning the Vikings back once again.
The Saints had their own fumble problems as well. Drew Brees fumbled twice: once on a snap that he got back, and the second on a sack that was recovered by right guard Jahri Evans.
Not counting the Minnesota fumbles that they recovered themselves and the two fumbles by the Saints they recovered, there were three fumbles that affected the outcome of the game.
Of those three fumbles, one can argue that they resulted in a 21-point swing. That is if the Vikings could have cashed in for seven points on Bush’s mistake before the half.
The next seven points could have been avoided if the Saints had not been able to take advantage of the Harvin fumble. Finally, if Minnesota had not had Berrian’s fumble, they would have scored on that possession for another seven points.
Minnesota special teams helped set up 10 points for the Saints
When it wasn’t the Vikings offense shooting the team in the foot it was the defense. Twice in this game, the Minnesota kick coverage set the Saints up in good field position.
The first time was at the start of the second half with the game tied 14-14. Ryan Longwell’s kickoff was taken by Courtney Roby from the New Orleans two-yard line all the way to the Minnesota 37-yard line.
Saints QB Drew Brees only needed to lead his team on a four-play drive in order for the Saints to have their first lead of the game, 21-14.
Minnesota’s special teams had one more break down, at the most inopportune time. The Vikings allowed the Saints' Pierre Thomas to take the opening kickoff of overtime to the Saints 39-yard line.
The interception by Favre and this kickoff brought the home crowd alive again in the Superdome. The kickoff in overtime did not lose the game, but it was a big part of the equation.
Vikings’ coaching staff before Favre’s interception
With 1:06 left to go in the game, the Vikings had a 1st-and-10 from the New Orleans 33-yard line. Even if Minnesota did not pick up another yard, it would have been a 50-yard field goal attempt for Ryan Longwell.
Minnesota used first down to run Chester Taylor for no gain. Then on second down, the Vikings would ran Peterson for no gain.
While the Vikings offense went into a safe mode, time began to trickle off the clock on the first and second down runs. Minnesota would spend a timeout before the third down play.
When the Vikings came back on the field for the third down play, there was an attempted second time out, which would have been a penalty. Instead, they received a penalty for 12 men in the huddle.
The Minnesota coaches are at fault for the need for a second time and having 12 men in the huddle. Coming out of a time out, the coaches should have made sure that the players knew who should have been on the field.
An assistant coach should count the players before they leave the sideline. With the 12 men in the huddle penalty, the ball was moved back five yards to the New Orleans 38, which would have been a 55-yard field goal.
Even before the penalty, Longwell’s longest field goal in the 2009 season was 52 yards, and he only made two field goals of 50 or more yards all year. Both of those field goals came at home as well.
The last time Longwell even made a 55-yarder was in 2007. Instead of trying to get a closer field goal attempt on first and second down, the Vikings' coaching staff got extremely conservative.
Yes, Favre might have tried to run instead of throwing the ball across his body (which led to the interception). But you have to remember that Favre had been battered all game long and had a bad ankle.
Minnesota’s defense did not make a play in overtime
The New Orleans Saints had 13 offensive possessions before the overtime period. Only four went for scores. Seven possessions resulted in punts. Even if you discount the two, end of the half possessions, it still means that New Orleans punted on seven of eleven possessions.
When the Saints won the coin toss to receive the kick in overtime, the Vikings only had to make a stop to give their offense a chance to win the game. The overtime possession for New Orleans was a perfect storm.
The kickoff team for the Vikings let the Saints get a good return to set New Orleans up in a decent field possession. Minnesota’s defense then let the Saints offense go on an 11-play drive before they kicked the game-winning field goal.
The New Orleans offense was able to get two first downs because of defensive penalties by the Vikings. The first was a defensive holding penalty, and the other penalty was a 12-yard pass interference penalty. The Minnesota defense also gave up a first down on a fourth down run by Thomas.
Even after Favre’s interception, the Vikings still would have had a chance to win the game if their defense made a stop. The Minnesota offense never got a chance to get on the field in the overtime period.
The Vikings did not get any breaks from the officials in overtime
While the Minnesota defense could not get off the field in overtime, there were some sketchy calls in the overtime period.
The Vikings got called for a defensive holding penalty that gave the Vikings a first down. Earlier in the game, the Saints nearly ripped off Visanthe Shiancoe’s jersey in the third quarter on a pass from Favre that set the Vikings up at the one-yard line that was not even called.
There was also a pass interference penalty that set the Saints up in field goal range in the overtime. One could argue that the pass was uncatchable or even that there was just good coverage on the play.
There were 12 plays in the overtime period. Of those 12 plays, three were reviewed by the replay booth (per overtime rules). On all three overtime replays the call on the field was upheld in favor of the Saints.
To break it down for the cheap seats, there were 12 plays total in overtime. Of those 12 plays, the officials had a hand in five of them.
One would think with nearly 50 percent of the overtime plays coming down to a call by the officials that one would have gone the Vikings way. Minnesota could not even get one break on penalties or replays, and it cost their defense a chance to get off the field.
Did Brett Favre’s interception cost the Vikings a victory in the NFC Championship Game? No. His interception did cost Minnesota a chance to try a long field goal that was not a given to win the game in regulation.
Minnesota had five turnovers in all. To say that the last turnover was the one that cost them the game is laughable.
In fact, it is downright wrong to blame this loss on Favre’s last pass. With field goal kickers making less than 60 percent of their kicks, a 55-yarder would have been iffy at best.
Most likely, Longwell would have missed that kick and the game would have gone into overtime anyway. Even so, please remember that the Vikings defense never gave the offense a chance to take the field in the overtime.
Favre never had a chance to redeem himself in the overtime period. If you dislike Favre, you’re a Green Bay fan, or someone in the media who just wanted to blame Favre anyway. You will take his last pass as the reason why the Vikings lost.
The Vikings found a way to lose this game as a team with a little bad luck from the officials. Then again, most people will believe what they want anyway.
The truth is, Favre was not the only Minnesota player who had a hand in this loss.
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