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Monday, January 25, 2010
Anatomy of two key plays

By Kevin Seifert

NEW ORLEANS -- Minnesota was in business with one minute, six seconds remaining in regulation of the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings had the ball on first down at New Orleans’ 33-yard line, with two timeouts and the NFL’s second most-accurate field goal kicker this season.

It all unraveled, however, in a two-play sequence that will be discussed all offseason in Minnesota. Here’s a closer look:

Prior to third down at the 33, the Vikings called a timeout with 19 seconds left. They changed their personnel during the break, according to coach Brad Childress, but not every player got the message. Childress said the Vikings “slipped up” and had an extra fullback on the field, leading to a crippling 5-yard penalty for 12 men in the huddle. It’s believed the fullback was Naufahu Tahi.

That pushed the ball back to the 38-yard line, meaning placekicker Ryan Longwell -- who had converted 26 of 28 field goals during the regular season -- would be faced with a 55- or 56-yard attempt to win the game. Longwell’s career high came from 55 yards to win a 2007 game at Soldier Field.

“We would have tried that from 56 yards,” Longwell said.” But after that 12-men-on-the field penalty, they felt we needed to get a little closer.”

So the Vikings sent quarterback Brett Favre on a rollout. Afterwards, Favre would say he wished he had run the ball and called a timeout. Instead, he threw across his body toward receiver Sidney Rice at the Saints’ 22-yard line. Cornerback Tracy Porter stepped in front of Rice and intercepted the pass.

“I was actually late to Sidney,” Favre said. “I probably should have ran it. I don’t know far I could have gotten, but in hindsight, that is probably what I should have done.”