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|Field Goal in OT Sends Saints to Super Bowl
|NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- For the first time in their 43-year history, the New Orleans Saints are heading to their first Super Bowl after battering Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime on unheralded Garrett Hartley's 40-yard field goal.
The team that had no home five years ago after Hurricane Katrina ravaged its city and the Superdome overcame a slew of mistakes in the biggest game the Big Easy has ever seen.
But the biggest error was made by Favre. The 40-year-old quarterback threw away Minnesota's chance for its first Super Bowl trip in 33 years with an interception deep in Saints territory in the final seconds of regulation.
New Orleans won the coin toss, Drew Brees guided it to the Minnesota 22 and Hartley won it. The kicker was suspended at the start of the season for using a banned stimulant. But he became New Orleans' newest hero by splitting the uprights 4:45 into OT.
After booming the game-winning kick to touch off a city-wide celebration, Hartley said he was "just helping my team get to Miami. Just doing my part."
Brees tossed three touchdown passes while completing 17 of 31 for 197 yards. His opposite number, the 40-year old Favre, was 28 of 46 for 310 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The most costly came at the end of regulation and it cost the Vikes a chance for a game-winning field goal. The Vikings self-destructed with five turnovers.
That gave the Saints life, and they took advantage. Moments after Hartley's kick, Saints fans were toasting their hometown winners on Bourbon Street.
And in the Superdome, once a squalid refuge after Katrina, they boogied in the aisles as confetti covered the field.
The 15-and-3 Saints (15-3) will meet Peyton Manning and the 16-and-2 Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in two weeks in Miami.
It's the first time the top seeds in each conference made the big game since the 1993 season.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)