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The Saints head to Miami

Hartley's kick in OT sends New Orleans to first ever Super Bowl. Associated Press

Print This January 24, 2010, 10:56 PM EST

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Battered and beaten, Brett Favre limped off the field for perhaps the last time.

His head down, the pained look on his face was brought on as much by an ill-advised late turnover as it was by a bone-crunching hit from Bobby McCray.

With the NFC championship game tied, the Vikings close to field goal range and mere seconds left, Favre made the kind of mistake he had avoided all season. He threw across his body toward Sidney Rice, and Tracy Porter stepped in front to intercept the pass, ending the Vikings' chances to win Sunday's game in regulation.

The Saints won the coin toss in overtime, and before Favre could take the field, Drew Brees drove them into position for Garrett Hartley's winning field goal that gave the Saints a 31-28 victory and their first Super Bowl berth.

It was a crushing end to an inspiring performance by Favre, who hobbled around the field for the entire final period after a hit by McCray put him on the trainer's table. The NFL's iron man, who has started a record 309 consecutive games, never missed a play and rallied the Vikings from 7 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

He finished with 310 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, the last of which may haunt him for a long, long time. It was somewhat reminiscent of two years ago while he was with the Packers in the NFC title game. Favre threw an interception against the Giants that led to the field goal that put New York in the Super Bowl and started Favre's annual will-he-or-won't-he offseason drama.

After driving the Vikings for the tying score with under 5 minutes to go in regulation, Favre moved Minnesota into Saints territory again as the clock wound down. On third-and-15 from the New Orleans 38, Favre knew the Vikings needed to get closer to give Ryan Longwell a legitimate shot at a game-winning field goal.

So Favre made one more gamble, and lost big. He rolled right, then, instead of scrambling for the yards that might have put Minnesota in field goal range, threw across his body to the left. Porter snagged it to end the threat.

Favre just shook his head, knowing that his best - and maybe last - chance to reach the Super Bowl may have just slipped away.

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