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NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Drew Brees threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson to tie the NFC title game 14-14 and Adrian Peterson’s fumbling problem resurfaced late and cost the Minnesota Vikings a chance to take the lead heading into halftime.
After Saints star Reggie Bush fumbled a punt with just over 1 minute to play in the first half, Peterson fumbled a handoff from Brett Favre at the 4-yard line and a relieved Bush ran out the clock to keep the game tied.
The winner advances to play the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 7. The Colts beat the New York Jets 30-17 in the AFC championship game earlier on Sunday.
Peterson lost six fumbles in the regular season, a glaring weakness for one of the most talented running backs in the game.
The two top scoring offenses in the league got off to a roaring start, combining to throw 42 passes in the first 30 minutes.
Playing just an hour from where he grew up, Favre completed 15 of 26 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown to Sidney Rice.
Brees was 10 of 16 for 133 yards and two touchdowns in a matchup of the two highest rated quarterbacks in the regular season.
The Vikings scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, taking a 14-7 lead on Favre’s 5-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice in a back-and-forth first quarter. Peterson scored on a 19-yard TD run to open the scoring.
The Saints made it 7-7 on Brees’ 38-yard TD pass to Pierre Thomas.
Both defenses stiffened in the second quarter, with the Saints forcing four straight punts to keep giving Brees and their high-flying offense a chance.
After sacking Tony Romo six times and pressuring him countless others in a win over Dallas last week, the Vikings barely got a whiff of Brees in the first half. On their first possession of the second quarter, Brees had plenty of time to throw and found Henderson in the back of the end zone.
A city that parties like few others hasn’t stopped celebrating all season long as they’ve watched their beloved Saints assert themselves as the class of the NFC. A 13-0 start, the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and the Superdome’s first NFC title game have put their famous “Who Dat?!?” chant on repeat throughout this still recovering region.
Favre grew up less than an hour from New Orleans in Kiln, Miss., but if the region was divided at all with the favorite team going against the favorite son, it wasn’t apparent on Sunday.
Only a smattering of purple-clad Vikings backers managed to wiggle their way into the Superdome where 70,000 full-throated Saints fans had the stadium literally shaking after every big play by the home team.
No matter who comes out on top, a championship-starved franchise is going to get a long-awaited shot at the Super Bowl. In 43 years of existence, the Saints have never been to the Super Bowl, filling the role of lovable losers for all but a handful of those seasons.
The Vikings have lost all four Super Bowl appearances they’ve made, but an entire generation of fans has grown up without seeing them in the big game. The last time they were there was after the 1976 season.