By Doug Halberstadt
In a game involving such notable offensive standouts as Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Sidney Rice and Jeremy Shockey, a little-known guy named Garrett Hartley reigns supreme. In only his second year in the league, Hartley, the New Orleans field goal kicker, ends up being the hero.
Hartley’s 40-yard, game-winning field goal in overtime helped his Saints defeat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in the NFC Conference Championship game. The victory secured the Saints’ first-ever trip to the Super Bowl in their 43-year franchise history.
The Saints will face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami Feb. 7. The Colts, coached by Beloit, Wis., native Jim Caldwell, defeated the New York Jets 30-17 in the AFC Conference Championship game. The Saints were able to capitalize on multiple Minnesota turnovers.
Favre threw two interceptions, and his teammates fumbled the ball three times. Perhaps the game-changing turnover came at the end of regulation when Favre threw an ill-advised pass across his body that was intercepted. Many fans believed had he not thrown the ball, he could have run for enough yardage to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
I guess we will never know, and I’m sure Favre will be second-guessing that decision for a long, long time to come.
The experts in Las Vegas have already installed the Saints as an early 3 1/2-point favorite. Look for my Super Bowl prediction in next week’s column.
From the Jan. 27-Feb 2, 2010