MINNEAPOLIS (AP) This is why Brett Favre said he was coming back. And back he is - maybe better than ever.
Four - count 'em, four - touchdown passes from Minnesota's 40-year-old quarterback put the Vikings within a game of the Super Bowl with a 34-3 rout of the Dallas Cowboys to advance to the NFC championship Sunday.
Five months after ending retirement for a second straight year for a chance to win another championship, Favre found Sidney Rice for three scores and Ray Edwards led the defense's harassment of Tony Romo.
Favre and the Vikings (13-4) will take on the Saints next Sunday at New Orleans, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.
The exclamation came late in the fourth quarter, when Favre hit Visanthe Shiancoe for his personal playoff-best fourth scoring pass. Never in 22 previous postseason games had he thrown for that many touchdowns.
Favre completed 15 of 24 passes for 234 yards to finally beat Dallas in the playoffs, and Romo sat stone-faced on the bench between possessions in the second half after a three-turnover game against one of his childhood favorites.
Romo was sacked six times, three by Edwards, lost two of his three fumbles and threw a glaring interception right to Ben Leber deep in his own end late in the third quarter to set up a field goal. After gaining 118 yards in the first quarter, the Cowboys got only 130 the rest of the way and watched the buzz from their first playoff win in 13 years last week fizzle out.
Romo finished 22 for 35 for 198 yards, but for all the strides he made this season his lack of poise in the din of the Metrodome will be remembered well. The last time Dallas won a playoff game on the road was the NFC championship after the 1992 season.
Favre had a remarkable regular season with a career-low interception total of seven and 33 touchdown passes that pushed the Vikings to their best finish in 11 years. They won their division last season, too, so this return to the playoffs was irrelevant.
The once-unfathomable partnership was formed just for this, a talented team hoping to hitch those title hopes to Favre, who was driven to disprove the doubts about his ability to get back to the big game again.
JUN 17 Jeff Fedotin
Following eventful offseason, Miller gears up for 2013.
JUN 15 Joel Corry
15-year veteran returns to the place where it all began.
JUN 10 Jeff Fedotin
Kansas City and new coach Andy Reid take a shot with the pistol guru.