Ever wish you had a “Wayback Machine” (of Sherman and Peabody fame) and could travel back in time? (I’m thinking the Vikings and Adrian Peterson are wishing they had one about now.) It could provide the opportunity to revisit a cherished time, relive an old memory or even manipulate a different outcome. I’d go back to the 2009 NFC Championship game—a game that haunts me to this day.
It wasn’t too long ago, just about five years, so I still have the same clothes and could fit in. I’d go back and once again invite friends over again to watch the Vikings play the New Orleans Saints in the title game, but hope it would somehow finish differently. Insanity? That’s what Albert Einstein said, but until that final kick went through the uprights in overtime, it was one of the most compelling football games in Vikings history.
So, call it insane (or click bait), but in recognition of the Vikings’ return to the Superdome in New Orleans this week, let’s take a trip back.
When you Google 2009 NFC Championship game, one of the choices that comes up is: “2009 NFC Championship game rigged.” We’ll get to that in a bit, but we must first set the scene.
The Vikings were coming off a decent 12-4 regular season in which their quarterback, the expatriated Packer Brett Favre, had put together arguably the best season of his storied career. He had just blistered the Dallas Cowboys 34-3 in the Divisional playoff round the week prior to the Saints game, and the Vikings were riding high and looked primed to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 32 years.
The hometown Saints were no pushover. With a great quarterback in Drew Brees, they had their best team in years (basically, ever) and had become NFL fans’ sentimental favorite since Hurricane Katrina had ravaged their city just four years earlier.
But the Vikings weren’t having any of it—they weren’t about to lay down. As you may recall, the Vikings battled through adversity (albeit, self-inflicted with five turnovers) and came from behind twice, mostly outplaying the Saints, and still had a chance to win at the end of regulation.
For me, the most pivotal turnover (except for the final one) was the fumble before halftime. With little time left before the break, the Vikings recovered a Reggie Bush muffed punt, deep in Saints territory. With second and goal at the 4-yard line, Favre and Peterson bungled the exchange of a hand-off and the Saints recovered. A score there would have given the Vikings the lead at halftime and a huge momentum swing. Instead, they were forced to battle back twice to tie the game in the second half.
With the score tied at 28 and the clock ticking down in regulation, the Vikings moved into position for a winning field goal. Before the flood of many, many bad and disheartening things happened, the Vikings offense, led by an injured Favre, was in command. With 3rd and 10 on the 33-yard line, if the Vikings hadn’t gained another yard, they were looking at a 50-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to win the game—and long snapper Cullen Loeffler, holder Chris Kluwe and kicker Ryan Longwell were preparing for it. They were preparing for the kick that never came.
Instead there was the infamous “12 men in the huddle” penalty to back the team up five yards, and then a pass play with two out of three options open (a pass to Bernard Berrian on the sidelines or Favre hobbling to get those five yards back) that would have secured better field goal position or even a first down. Favre chose the third option, throwing across his body to Sidney Rice for an interception, and thus began the long, slow train to defeat.
There are seven players on the Vikings team this season who were on the 2009 roster that played in New Orleans—Loeffler, Peterson, Phil Loadholt, John Sullivan, Chad Greenway, Brian Robison and Jasper Brinkley—and they returned the following season to open the 2010 season but lost. On Sunday, six of them will have the opportunity to go back and exact some amount of revenge by winning in the Superdome.
For me, that’s not enough. I want to climb in the Wayback Machine, and like anyone who has ever gone back in time, as in “The Time Tunnel,” “Back to the Future” or even “The Terminator,” I want to go back and change things.
I would go back before the game and call the Green Bay Packers PR department for Favre’s cell phone number--someone there was probably mad enough at him then to give it up. If not, I would try to contact Jenn Sterger—we know she had it.
I would text Favre a screen shot of how wide open Berrian was on the sideline. I would tell him that if he still needs to be the hero, then run for the first down. He could have gotten close.
I would go to Winter Park and try to convince head coach Brad Childress that he can go to the Super Bowl, never have to sign Randy Moss and keep his job if he can just get his sideline under control. He wouldn’t listen (because he didn’t even listen to Favre), so I would warn him about the bounty the Saints defenders have on his quarterback and tell him to jack up the refs before the game.
If that all fails, I would transport to the Superdome, scalp a ticket to the game, strip off my shirt (just my shirt) and write “Rice is Covered! on my stomach and run out onto the field during the Vikings’ time out. If I see Naufahu Tahi anywhere, I’d dive in front of him and cross-body block him before he trots out onto the field as the 12th man. (I wouldn’t try to tackle him, though, that would be insane.) I would miss watching the inevitable winning field goal as they haul me away, but it would be worth it.
But realistically, I am left with only one option, to click on this video that I found when Googling the link “2009 NFC Championship game rigged” and watch it over and over and over again.
The internet—I guess it’s the closest thing we have to a Wayback Machine.
For more on this story, including Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler’s thoughts on the NFC title game, go to VikingsJournal.com. You can check out more information on Sunday's game with New Orleans and read about another tough week for the Vikings franchise.
Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.com, covers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an award-winning author and a longtime Minnesota-based writer.