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NFC Championship Preview: New Orleans Saints Host Minnesota Vikings

    <span style="">Following a convincing 45-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, the New Orleans Saints (14-3) host the Minnesota Vikings (13-4) in the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday. It marks the first time in franchise history that the Saints have hosted a conference championship and the winner will move on to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, February 7.   

"This is huge," said Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees. " It's been a season of firsts in a lot of ways. This will be the first NFC Championship game played here, and this city deserves it. The Who Dat Nation deserves it."

Starting middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, "it's a different animal playing in the NFC Championship Game. You're not just going to go in there and will your way. You have to execute to stop Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe…the list goes on and on."

One thing is sure to be a factor, the Saints' home field advantage, albeit it will surely be likened the "Domefield Advantage" on Sunday. "They are definitely out 12th man out there," Vilma said. While Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said this afternoon, "It's our job to take them (the Saints' home crowd) out of the game early and make them sit on their hands."

Which is something that surely didn't happen last week, as the Saints defeated the Cardinals with a combined standout effort on offense, defense and special teams.

The arm of Brees and legs of RB Reggie Bush combined to help key an explosive offensive performance. Brees enjoyed his finest postseason performance to date; completing 23-of-32 passes for 247 yards, three touchdowns and a 125.4 passer rating. It was the tenth day of the season where he posted an efficiency of 100.0 or better.

Bush had perhaps the finest day of his career in a Saints uniform, rushing for 84 yards on only five carries, including a 46-yard touchdown, adding four receptions for 24 yards and three punt returns for 109 yards for 217 all purpose yards. His third quarter 83-yard runback was the third longest in NFL playoff history.

The starting receiving duo of Marques Colston and Devery Henderson each had at least 80 yards receiving and each scored one touchdown, while TE Jeremy Shockey had three catches for 36 yards and a 19-yard TD.

The defense also enjoyed a strong performance against Arizona's celebrated offense. Holding the Cardinals to only 14 points, the unit allowed them to convert on one-of-eight third down attempts. After giving up a rushing touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage, New Orleans surrendered only more score and 289 net yards in the remainder of the game.

On Arizona's second offensive possession, CB Randall Gay forced a fumble, which was recovered by S Darren Sharper and returned 13 yards to Cardinals territory, setting up New Orleans' go-ahead touchdown.

Cardinals QB Kurt Warner was harassed by a ferocious pass rush, which allowed him to throw for only 205 yards and forced a second quarter pick to DE Will Smith.

Minnesota enters Sunday's contest following a 34-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Mall of America Field. The Vikings are powered by a potent offense powered by Kiln, Mississippi native Brett Favre and RB Adrian Peterson. In the regular season, Brees and Favre were at or near the top in most NFL passing categories. The Vikings also feature a ferocious defense that was ranked sixth in the NFL in the regular season, second against the run, led by DE Jared Allen who led the NFL with 14.5 sacks.

The Saints and the Vikings have played 25 times in the regular season with Minnesota leading the series 18-7. The two clubs have met twice in the postseason with the Vikings capturing both of the matchups, one home and one away.

• WORTH NOTING: The Saints now have a 3-6 all-time record in the postseason, 3-3 at home...QB Drew Brees set playoff career-highs with three TD passes and a 125.4 passer rating vs. Arizona...With a 46-yard touchdown run and an 83-yard punt return for a score on Saturday, RB Reggie Bush became only the second player in NFL history and the first in more than 60 years to produce TDs on a run play and punt return in a postseason game. Bush now has the longest rush, longest punt return and reception (88-yard TD at Chicago, Jan. 21, 2007) in Saints postseason history...The game will be nationally televised on FOX with Joe Buck handling play-by-play, Troy Aikman serving as color analyst and Pam Oliver and Chris Myers on the sidelines...The game can heard regionally on the Saints Radio Network (870 AM or 105.3 FM locally) with Jim Henderson handling play-by-play, Hokie Gajan serving as color analyst and Kristian Garic reporting from the Saints sidelines...A national radio broadcast will also be available on Westwood One with Dave Sims handling play-by-play, James Lofton serving as color analyst and Hub Arkush on the sidelines.

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