MINNEAPOLIS – “This is what I came back for.”
For the adrenaline rush. For the in-your-face touchdown. For another shot at the Super Bowl.
Brett Favre wanted all of it, and now he’s got it.
Four – count ’em, four – touchdown passes from Minnesota’s 40-year-old quarterback sent the Vikings to the NFC championship game with a determined 34-3 rout of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
“Probably the most fatigued I got today was celebrating,” Favre said, smiling.
The Vikings (13-4) will take on the Saints next Sunday at New Orleans (14-3), with the winner going to the Super Bowl in Miami – the only reason Favre put retirement on hold for a second straight season.
Favre found Sidney Rice for three scores and put an exclamation point on the final one when his fourth-and-3 pass from the 11 was caught in the end zone by Visanthe Shiancoe after the 2-minute warning.
Never in 22 previous playoff games had Favre thrown for four scores, and never before had he beaten Dallas in the postseason after losses to the Cowboys ended his first three playoff experiences with Green Bay.
Favre finished 15 for 24 for 234 yards without a turnover, slapping fives with anyone in reach and rapidly pumping his right arm after each score.
“I feel like I’m playing the same way. I have the same enthusiasm,” Favre said. “As long as I’m out there, the enthusiasm and the passion that you see is real. And I know the guys feed off of that. Fans enjoy that, because it is real and genuine.”
Favre added another accomplishment as the first 40-year-old quarterback to win a playoff game.
“Today was like this season: It’s been wonderful,” said Favre, whose only championship came 13 years ago with the Packers.
The Vikings, who had last week off while the Cowboys whipped Philadelphia, were bothered by all the people picking Dallas to win.
“The Tasmanian devils were coming from Dallas that were about to bombard the state of Minnesota and run through us like Sherman through the South,” coach Brad Childress said, exaggerating the popular opinion about this game. “All of us felt it quite palpably.”
Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking balked at the late touchdown, confronting Childress on the sideline.
“I think it was totally classless and disrespectful,” Brooking said.
Childress and Favre both chalked it up to staying aggressive to the end.
“That wasn’t rubbing it in. It’s just taking care of business,” the coach said.
Ray Edwards led the Minnesota defense’s harassment of Tony Romo, who sat stone-faced on the bench between possessions in the second half after a three-turnover game.
“Any time you come in with the expectations and goals we set and don’t accomplish them, No. 1, it’s frustrating,” Romo said.
Romo was sacked six times, three by Edwards, lost two of his three fumbles and threw an interception right to Ben Leber deep in his own end late in the third quarter to set up a Vikings field goal.
“It’s like the elevator falling from the top. It’s tough when it’s over. If you don’t win it all, you have not reached your goal,” coach Wade Phillips said.
Vikings 34, Cowboys 3
Min—Rice 47 pass from Favre (Longwell kick)
Dal—FG Suisham 33
Min—Rice 16 pass from Favre (Longwell kick)
Min—FG Longwell 23
Min—FG Longwell 28
Min—Rice 45 pass from Favre (Longwell kick)
Min—Shiancoe 11 pass from Favre (Longwell kick)
|Total Net Yards||248||323|
|Time of Possession||30:34||29:26|
RUSHING—Dallas, Jones 14-69, Barber 8-14, Austin 1-8, Choice 1-1, Romo 1-0. Minnesota, Peterson 26-63, Taylor 4-23, Harvin 3-23.
PASSING—Dallas, Romo 22-35-1-198. Minnesota, Favre 15-24-0-234.
RECEIVING—Dallas, Witten 10-98, Austin 4-34, Bennett 3-27, Jones 3-22, Crayton 2-17. Minnesota, Rice 6-141, Berrian 3-32, Taylor 2-16, Peterson 1-19, Kleinsasser 1-14, Shiancoe 1-11, Harvin 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Dallas, Suisham 48 (WL), 49 (WL).