So, here we are. This is right where Minnesota Viking Coach, Brad Childress envisioned he would be when he begged, borrowed, and practically stole Brett Favre out of retirement last summer. Right at the crux of the Favre experiment, after their battle with the New Orleans Saints down in the Louisiana Superdome, the Vikings will either be a Super Bowl participant or a playoff also-ran come Sunday night.
For the Vikings, this will be their fifth NFC Championship Game since their last victorious one in 1977. That one, a 24-13 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, led to the last Viking Super Bowl, the 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders. No Viking fan back then, could have possibly imagined that it would take over 30 years and counting, to return to the Super Bowl, having been to four of them in a seven season period, and winning a perfect four-out-of-four title games in the process of getting to them. It seemed so easy back then.
So, here we are. One more chance to get over this now monstrous title game hurdle. The last conference title game ended in embarrassment after the 2001, 41-0 debacle in the Meadowlands. Before that, in 1999, the heart-wrenching 30-27 overtime loss at the hands of those "Dirty Birds", the Atlanta Falcons. Before that, in 1988, the frustrating 17-10 nail-biting loss in Washington, when Viking running back, Darrin Nelson, dropped an inside-of-the-last-minute pass at the goal line that could have forced overtime. Before that, the noble effort put up by a shorthanded Viking team attempting to go to back-to-back Super Bowls led by journeyman quarterback, Bob Lee playing for an injured Fran Tarkenton. That 23-6 title game loss in Dallas, signalled the end of the Super Bowl run for that group of Vikings.
For the Saints, this will be their second NFC Championship Game appearence, their first being a 39-14 trouncing three years ago in Chicago. For the Superdome however, this will be the biggest game ever hosted by the Saints. The Vikings were the rude visitors in the previous biggest game ever hosted by the Saints in the Superdome. In 1987, in their 21st year of existence, the beleagured Saints finally played their first playoff game ever. At kickoff, as to be expected, that Superdome crowd was 'rockin! After the 44-10 whipping the Vikings laid on them, that nearly-empty shell, was as dead as a doorknob.
The two franchises met in one other postseason contest, the 2001, 34-16 pasting by the Vikings a week before making that ill-fated journey to visit the New York Giants.
Throughout this season, from September to November, these two teams seemed on a collision course to decide the NFC title. The Vikings raced out to a 10-1 record, only to be topped in the conference by the Saints at 11-0 (eventually swelling to 13-0). Then December came. Each team faded and came crashing back toward the pack.
The playoffs however, have seemed to rejuvenate both clubs, as each looked like their mid-season selves again, in easily dispatching very worthy playoff opponents with a pair of routs. Both teams showcase high-powered explosive offenses, while the Vikings will also bring to the Superdome one of the league's best defenses. The Saints will not.
On the otherhand, the Saints will bring to the Superdome a raucous crowd that will be ready to blow the roof off the place, and the Vikings have lost their last three road games. One would think however, with the magnitude of this game being what it is, that the group who put up those flat performances in Arizona, Carolina and Chicago would not arrive in the Crescent City also.
So, here we are. The showdown is finally here. The two top scoring teams in the NFL, the Saints at 31.9 points a game, and the Vikings at 29.4 points a game, will clash one more time in postseason. Will the third time be a charm for the Saints, or will the Vikings pull the playoff "hat trick" on the "Who dats"?
So, here we are. Will the quarterback with the greatest career ever, notch a third Super Bowl on his belt, making Childress look like a genius, and Green Bay Packer GM, Ted Thompson look like ... not a genius? Or will Drew Brees, the quarterback who has hands-down played the position better than any other the past two seasons, finally get the credit he deserves, and get the Saints where they have never been to, a Super Bowl? The matchup the NFC has been pointing to all year, will finally be a reality this Sunday.
So, here we are.