NEW ORLEANS – Where to start.
I can honestly say that was the wildest sporting event I have ever covered. It was one huge play after another. I’m sure the Vikings will look back at Sunday's 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints and see nothing but missed opportunities, from the five turnovers to the critical penalty for having 12 players in the huddle.
We have lots of analysis online and in the paper. Judd already did a blog on Brett Favre and the penalty for having 12 players in the huddle earlier so I won’t write about them here.
But here are some notes and quotes from the locker room.
Adrian Peterson came out of the locker room -- still dressed in full uniform -- to watch the New Orleans Saints celebrate their first trip to the Super Bowl.
As fans cheered, confetti fell and the Saints gathered on a stage at midfield, Peterson stood silent and watched the scene from the tunnel.
“It was painful,” he said. “Especially the way the game ended. Our guys fought hard and I honestly feel like we just gave the game away. Too many turnovers. It came back at the end to bite us.”
Peterson had a hand in that. Though he finally rushed for 100 yards and scored three touchdowns, Peterson also fumbled two times and took responsibility for the botched handoff at the end of the first half.
Peterson finished with 122 yards rushing on 25 carries, ending a streak of eight games without reaching the 100-yard mark. But his performance was marred by his fumbles and he admitted afterward that he started thinking too much about his mistakes.
“After the first one close to the goal line, I let it play in my head too much,” he said. “I came out the second half and was thinking about it too much. I had to get my mind back focused and not thinking about it when I was out there.”
Peterson’s fumbling problem became a major issue in his third season. He fumbled seven times, losing six of them in the regular season. He said he will spend the offseason trying to solve it.
“With my running style, it will be something I’m thinking about as far as practice keeping the ball high,” he said. “The way I run the ball kind of gets loose. I have to be more conscious of keeping the ball high when I’m going down. Those are some little things I’ll definitely look to correct this offseason.”
The Vikings were unhappy with the officiating, specifically the pass interference penalty on linebacker Ben Leber against tight end David Thomas in overtime.
The pass from Drew Brees was overthrown and appeared to be uncatchable, but Leber was called for pass interference after the two players fell to the ground.
“I don’t think it was catchable,” Leber said. “I don’t obviously agree with the call. But they made it. I hate using the phrase, but it is what it is. They called it. We have to deal with it. We have to play on.”
The penalty gave the Saints a first down at the Vikings 29-yard line. They kicked the game-winning field goal four plays later.
The Vikings also disagreed with an overturned call on Reggie Bush’s 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. The officials ruled that safety Tyrell Johnson knocked Bush out of bounds at the 1-yard line on third down and the score tied at 21-21.
New Orleans challenged the call, and the officials ruled that Bush reached the ball across the goal line before going out of bounds.
“I’ll have to see that replay again,” Leber said. “That’s another one I don’t really agree with. I thought TJ did a good job getting the guy out of bounds, but we’ll deal with it.”
Peterson wasn’t crazy about the result of the booth reviews in overtime either.
“I’m really not going to say too much about the two calls at the end that got reviewed,” he said. “If you got eyes you pretty much can make your own judgment on that.”
Big game for Berrian
Bernard Berrian finally got on the same page with Favre and finished with nine receptions for a season-high 102 yards.
Berrian’s season was hampered by two separate hamstring injuries. He finished fourth on the team in catches and third in receiving yards. But he was Favre’s favorite target Sunday night. "I think we’ve been looking for that all year," Berrian said. "You have to make your opportunities count."
Uncertain on future
Vikings nose Pat Williams told KFAN Radio after the game that it is "50-50" whether he returns for his 14th season. Williams has one year remaining on his contract. Williams said recently that he would retire if the Vikings won the Super Bowl.
Rookie Percy Harvin said he wasn’t 100 percent after suffering a recurrence of migraines last week but he wanted to play. "Little bit but not enough to bring me out of the game," he said when asked if he had pain during the game. "I was well enough to play so I did."
Harvin caught five passes for 38 yards and had four carries for 15 yards. But he also had a critical fumble that set up a Saints go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I definitely fault myself," said Harvin, who had not lost a fumble all season. "I thrive on taking care of the ball, especially when I’m in the backfield. That’s the No. 1 thing. That’s eating at me. It’s just so sad that you don’t have a chance to correct it next week. It’s just something you have to swallow."
Harvin took the handoff at the Vikings 27-yard line and was trying to move the ball to his other hand but Saints defensive end Will Smith knocked it loose. The Saints advanced it to the 7-yard line and Reggie Bush scored on a 5-yard touchdown catch for a 28-21 lead.
"I saw the big man at the end so I was switching it to kind of stiff-arm him. Right as I was switching the ball he poked it out. They did a great job of ball stripping us all game."