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Favre's costly interception helps send Saints to Super Bowl

There were 19 seconds to play and New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma had a hunch.

With the game tied 28-28, the Minnesota Vikings needed seven yards to get within kicker Ryan Longwell's field-goal range. The living legend across the line -- a man whose Canton resumé includes countless moments such as this -- noticed that the Saints were showing man-to-man coverage.

"I knew that Brett Favre was expecting man coverage," Vilma explained later. "So we checked out of that man coverage and went to zone."

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Vilma's adjustment, which took just a few seconds to make, resulted in a key interception by cornerback Tracy Porter. This turn of events helped propel the Saints to Super Bowl XLIV.

A breakdown of the play shows that Favre intended to exploit man coverage by rolling right and finding Bernard Berrian in the flat for enough yards to set up a potential game-winning field goal by Longwell.

When Vilma switched to Cover 2 zone coverage, left cornerback Jabari Greer stayed in the flat and was in perfect position to cover Berrian. Favre's second read -- tight end Visanthe Shiancoe -- was negated by bracket coverage.

At this point, Favre could have done one of three things: 1. Scramble for yardage; 2. Throw the ball out of bounds and have Longwell take his chances with a 56-yard field goal; or 3. Try and make a play as Favre has so many times before.

Rolling right, Favre pivoted and fired back across the grain -- a cardinal sin for any quarterback not named Favre -- torward receiver Sidney Rice. All season long, Favre and Rice had improvised successfully. This time would be different.

Appearing out of Favre's vision was Porter, the right cornerback. With the action away from his zone, Porter cheated toward the middle and was in perfect position to pounce on Favre's pass to Rice.

"I probably should have run it," Favre said later. "I don't know how far I would have gotten ... in hindsight that's what I should have done, but I was just late to Sidney (Rice)."

The turnover would be the Vikings' fifth of the game, a season-high for the team. The Saints, who finished second in the NFL with 39 takeaways, received the ball in overtime and promptly drove toward a game-winning field goal to mark their first Super Bowl berth in the franchise's 43-year history.

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