New Orleans in first ever final
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The New Orleans Saints face the Indianapolis Colts in the American football Super Bowl final, scheduled for February 7. The Saints defeated Minnesota to reach their first ever final.
AFP - Brett Favre's Super Bowl dream ended in pain and heartbreak as the New Orleans Saints beat Minnesota 31-28 in overtime on Sunday to reach the first Super Bowl in their 43-year history.
A city still struggling with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has rallied around the Saints, who will face Indianapolis in Super Bowl 44 on February 7 in suburban Miami after the Colts downed the New York Jets 30-17.
"There are so many parallels betewen us and the city. We have great fans. I'm glad we could do it for them," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "Now we have to go win it in Miami."
Brees, who leads the NFL's most potent scoring attack, threw for 197 yards three touchdown passes and the Saints defense forced five turnovers to ensure the first Super Bowl matchup between playoff top seeds since 1993.
"After all the things we've been through in the past four years, it's wonderful we can bring this to New Orleans," Saints running back Reggie Bush said. "I think it's the most wonderful thing that ever happened to the city."
National Football League icon Favre, the 40-year-old all-time passing leader who twice came out of retirement, threw an interception in the dying seconds of regulation to end a scoring bid and possibly his career.
"In a situation like this, I don't really want to make a decision right now," Favre said. "I wonder if I can hold up physically and mentally. That was pretty draining. It's just disappointing. That's an understatement."
Favre could only watch from the sidelines in sudden-death overtime as the Saints won the coin toss, received the kickoff, moved upfield and won on Garrett Hartley's 40-yard field goal 4:45 into the extra period.
"I'd love to win the Super Bowl. Who wouldn't? But I know I'm going out on top one way or another," Favre said. "If there were doubters out there, maybe I served notice to them. I wanted to get to Miami. That's not going to happen. If it is (my last game), no doubt I'm on top."
Neither the Saints nor the Vikings led by more than a touchdown, Minnesota being matched in the first half and answering the Saints twice in the second half, the last time on Adrian Peterson's two-yard touchdown run with 4:58 remaining in the fourth quarter, setting up the final drama.
Favre, slowed by an injured left ankle, completed 28-of-46 passes for 310 yards and Peterson ran for three touchdowns but it was not enough to lift the Vikings into their first Super Bowl since 1977.
Instead, the Saints celebrated and a party erupted in the same Superdome where death, damage and hopelessness ruled in the days after Katrina.
"This stadium used to have holes in it. It used to be wet. It's not wet anymore," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "This is for the city of New Orleans."
The Saints will face an Indianapolis squad led by Peyton Manning, the son of former New Orleans star quarterback Archie Manning, and try to deny the Colts their second NFL crown in four seasons.
Manning completed 26-of-39 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns to rally host Indianapolis from an 11-point deficit against the NFL's top defense, with the Colts scoring the final 24 points.
"We talked about being patient against these guys. It took some time to figure out what their plan of attack was," Manning said. "We stayed patient, didn't panic, got a bead on them and beat them with the passing game."
Since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts' only NFL title came in 2006, when Manning sparked a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the same stadium where they will play for a championship in two weeks.
Colts receiver Pierre Garcon, a player of Haitian descent taking motivation from the earthquake there now that family members are safe, caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He draped the Haiti flag over the American Conference championship trophy.
"When called upon, Pierre was outstanding," Manning said. "He has had an emotional couple of weeks with everything going on in Haiti. We're real proud of how he stepped up and played for us."
Manning threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie with 73 seconds remaining in the second quarter, connected with Garcon on a four-yard touchdown pass that gave Indianapolis the lead for good 6:57 into the third quarter and hit Dallas Clark for another touchdown from 15 yards out.
"When you struggle against Peyton Manning, he will eat you alive," said Jets coach Rex Ryan.
Colts kicker Matt Stover, who at 42 will be the oldest player in Super Bowl history, added a 21-yard field goal with 2:29 to play for the final points.
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