I know that this piece won’t hit the Vikings faithful as breaking news, but if you couldn’t already tell, I spend a lot of time online. Because of that, I’ve come across Saints fans that honestly don’t believe that the Saints cheated their way into both a Super Bowl appearance and Super Bowl win in 2009.
The argument is that it wasn’t really cheating, just dirty play. Which, if you’re making that argument to begin with, you have to admit that your team has/had problems. It just feels like revisionist history. But, I do this for a living (somehow) and so I know that you’re going to get some semblance of that from NFL fans. It’s just part of it.
Because of that, I didn’t really want to… I’ve had this idea for an article for a LONG time. A definitive breakdown of just how the Saints cheated. But, I figured, bide your time ya ugly bastid, because eventually you’re going to HAVE to write that article. Well that time is now, as current Saints head coach Sean Payton gave an interview to some shrimp boat captain this week, decrying what a “sham” the entire BountyGate Scandal was, and decrying his LOSS OF SALARY from the season he was suspended. You can’t make this stuff up.
I could delve into the investigation against Payton, Greg(gggg) Williams and company, and I probably will. But, I think that most of us are visual learners, so what better way to remind Payton/everyone in Louisiana of the culmination of BountyGate than to show them play-by-play, the 2009 NFC Championship game. Where player after player hit Favre (and company) late, and low (while driving them to the ground).
Now, since I think I speak for a lot of Vikings fans, I think we all remember this game as a complete cluster (outside of the illegal hits, I mean). The Vikings doing what the Vikings always do, and essentially just handing the game to the Saints (again, outside of the hits).
Many talk about this game, and the late interception, as the game that defines Brett Favre’s legacy as a gunslinger who always threw the game away. I will agree that this game SHOULD define Favre’s legacy, but as you’ll see, I think it’s for entirely different reasons.
In rewatching the game recently I was really amazed at just how unstoppable the Vikings looked in the first half, especially. We all remember this game as the Vikings fumbling/turning the ball over constantly (which is true), but man, did they look good for most of this game.
This was a team firing on all cylinders despite playing in one of the most inhospitable stadiums in the league. They were playing so well that I found myself lost, as if I was watching the game for the first time (which, I know, I kind of was (see above)) and feeling like there was no way that the Vikings could lose. Rooting for them late, being filled with those similar emotions from 2009, and 2017… And 2001, and 1998.
Coming off of a career game (and that says something) against the Cowboys, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was still performing at an extremely high level to start the NFC Championship game.
This pass on the first drive (which ended in an Adrian Peterson touchdown) proves that.
Speaking of Adrian Peterson, this Vikings team was absolutely loaded with offensive talent. AP/AD was in his prime at this point, as was receiver/running back hybrid Percy Harvin.
The Vikings also had Sidney Rice, who had his only good season as a pro in 2009-10, as well as speedster receiver Bernard Berrian, who was relatively one-dimensional but in an offense with the aforementioned skill players, was exactly what this Vikings offense needed.
Just look at this run from AP on the first drive, followed by a run by Percy Harvin, to see just how easily the Vikings were moving down the field to start the game.
Now Percy, also on the first drive:
Favre was hitting receivers (in this case Bernard Berrian) both in stride and in insanely small windows (same video as above, just to hammer the point home)…
I have a feeling that the efficiency of this drive terrified the Saints (and thus Gregg (the extra ‘G’ stands for I’ll-gotten gains?) … Williams, who would be insufferable even without his record of breaking rules, because he spells his name with an extra ‘G’) and thus they decided to go with ‘Plan B’, the ‘B’ standing for ‘B…Cheating’. I mean, even plays that didn’t “work”, worked. Look at this run from AP from the Vikings’ first drive. How can you stop an offense that picks up this kind of yardage on the lowest per play yardage total of the drive?
An offense that ended it’s first drive this way?
Or a situation in which the FIFTH best option on the Vikings offense was doing things like this?
So, why am I so confident that the first (and beginning of the second) Vikings’ drives lead the Saints to go to plan B? First, the Vikings offense was unstoppable on the first drive, picking up 7-9 yards at will each down. Secondly, because I have eyeballs and a frontal lobe and noticed that the late hits began on the second drive, and really didn’t relent for the rest of the game.
The first came (or actually second, the first just wasn’t shown, thanks Fox) in a play that was whistled dead as it was “unabated to the quarterback”, a move designed to prevent exactly what happened. Sure, it was loud in the Super Dome, but if it didn’t end up looking like a harbinger as to what was coming, I’d let it slide…
The Vikings coaching staff was angered by this hit, to their credit. I never thought that I’d be praising Brad Childress… Really ever. But he did try to bring this to the attention of the Refs:
That’s after a hit earlier in the drive that in today’s NFL would probably draw a flag, but in this instance is like getting slapped in the mouth before being at the epicenter of a hydrogen bomb test.
Speaking of a harbinger of things to come, only a couple plays later one of the larger cheap plays that ended up ingrained in Vikings fans’ minds was the late hit after the end around by Fatty McGee, you can see from the expression on Favre’s face that something was beginning to smell a bit fishy (or fisher than usual, considering they sell crayfish on every street corner in New Orleans).
Now, as I stated above, the Vikings also beat themselves, sort of. You can see on this play, despite the fact that the Vikings did end up with a touchdown on this drive, Favre missed an open Percy Harvin for a touchdown. This play came right after the end-around play above, and even the concussed Troy Aikman (Who defended more than one of the Saints late hits during the broadcast for some reason) said that Favre’s timing was off because of the hit above.
Point being, actions have consequences and the late hits on Favre did affect his ability to play at the level he had been all year. I mean, look at this stat from the second drive, none of those hits were for a loss and I’d wager that all four would’ve been 15-yard penalties in any other circumstance.
The next hit came from former Viking and Packer and current inmate Darren Sharper, who honestly should’ve known better (but considering his current predicament, I guess he couldn’t?). This was the second late hit on his former teammate by Sharper, an all-around scum-bag who clearly put winning a Super Bowl over any actual integrity or personal relationships. Which to me, outside of rape or murder, is probably the worst thing a person can do. So, way to check both boxes, Sharper.
You can also see Favre talking to the referee, who helps Favre put his shoulder pads back into his jersey (a sight that ended up as the lasting image of Favre in that game). It clearly didn’t help, but you can’t fault the old veteran for trying… To ask the refs to process what they’re seeing on the field…
Despite these hits, though, Favre stood strong in the pocket. I wanted to add this touchdown pass to show that Favre did what Favre does. He gets a lot of guff for how this game ended, but had we not had 12 men in the huddle and had Longwell hit that 51 yarder, I do believe that this game would’ve gone down as Favre’s best. This is proof of that…
At this point, the Vikings were up 14-7 and Greggggggggg Williams was crapping in his Dockers stain proof slacks. So, the Saints decided to dial up the only thing that independent NFL investigators discovered (too little, too late), cheating.
After a score and a Vikings short drive, followed by a short Saints drive, the Saints punted. You can see from the lack of awareness/care for the fair catch, that the Saints were going all-in with their idea of “physical play”. While this play was flagged, and many were, it’s just another example of the Saints ignoring their surroundings and hitting players just to hit them.
The Vikings would get the ball back with around two minutes left in the half. With Favre taking another late hit by Sharper, whose apparent plan to roofie/ruphie (depending on how you get down) Favre’s water bottle hadn’t worked yet.
That brings us to the end of the first half. After the Vikings were given the dagger that could’ve been the touchdown from Reggie Bush/Kardashian’s muffed punt, only to fumble the exchange and put the first thought in Vikings fans’ heads that they might just pull a Vikings in this game as well.
That having been said, the Vikings went into the locker room tied with the Saints at 14 points a piece. Now I know what some of you are thinking, especially those of you who are currently stealing WiFi from a Piggly Wiggly. Outside of the hit on the end around, these hits weren’t that egregious. Well, strap in… Because we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Despite the onslaught, again, Favre stood strong in the pocket and completed passes that in retrospect make me drool (as at the time, I was drooling for other reasons).
In this huge play, Favre laid out a PERFECT pass to former Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who was held like crazy by the Saints corner, something that wasn’t called. It didn’t matter, Shiancoe came through, as did Favre. This is another example of the Saints “game plan” though, and while they did receive their fair share of penalty flags (More than 10, IIRC), the cheating clearly had a lasting affect on Favre and the offense.
Ugh. That catch.
Again, I wanted to show how Favre (and in this case, Shiancoe) played so well, despite the late hits and holding penalties the Saints defense was clearly using as a game plan . I’m assuming that the Saints figured they’d rather have a penalty, even a personal foul, over allowing the Vikings offense run over them like they did the Cowboys the week before.
The fact that the Vikings offense did mostly run over them (Over 400 yards of total offense), shows why they felt compelled to do it, as if not for two turnovers inside the Saints TEN YARD LINE, the Vikings would’ve been on their way to the first Super Bowl in my lifetime.
But, it didn’t happen that way, not solely because of the cheat-ery, but at least partially (if not largely) because of things like the next clip, where the hits started to actually impact Favre’s ability to continue to play, either at the level we became accustomed to in 2009 or, at all…
As you can see in this play, where Favre was clearly driven to the field (A penalty), but while a flag was thrown, he was still injured, so it was definitely worth the 15 yards to the Saints and had a lasting effect (as talked about above) on the game.
This is not the first injury, as Favre came into the game with a torso that was partially colored the same as his teams away jersey, from a hit in the Cowboys game. The first late hits in the game exacerbated this injury and this hit clearly created a new injury to his lower body. Also, if you see Favre showing signs of physical pain like THIS… You know it has to be pretty bad (and as we found out later, it was, per these photos from MONTHS after the NFCCG):
But, like I said, this wasn’t his only injury in the game. The second injury came shortly after, as in a couple of plays after the above and it was this combination of injuries that would have a gigantic impact on the end of the game:
Late hit, low hit. This was also clearly a penalty (Ask Tom Brady ten years ago), but nothing was called here, either. Like I alluded to above, this play changed the game and was the reason that Favre ended up throwing that late-game interception. His ankle was destroyed, so his mobility was affected.
I mean, is this what the NFL wants? Multiple hits on a then still playing legend that are so awful that Fox cut to that player’s WIFE in the crowd for a reaction? This is normal? Of course it isn’t and the fact that these hits came almost back-to-back, combined with the “Bountygate” investigation proves that these hits weren’t coincidental, or even one or two players acting badly.
That’s why we’re now hearing this so-called “unfair” investigation narrative that Payton is hoping people will believe now that enough time has gone by for people to forget just how things went down in 2009. But, this is the internet and the internet never forgets.
The internet never forgets that the only way you could beat a legend like Favre, was to reduce that legend to this:
Still, though, like Favre always did, he kept playing and the offense kept moving down the field, despite:
As you can see… Favre was hit on a THIRD of his dropbacks, but sacked zero times. I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s nonsense. I also wanted to show the impact that the above hit had on his mobility, yet again (as I believe in hammering my points home until the person or people I’m arguing with are left with nothing to say and everything to ponder).
However, I do also want to show that Favre kept soldiering on. Because, again, had that 12 men in the huddle penalty not happened and Longwell hit that field goal, this would’ve probably been the best game of Favre’s illustrious career. Which is sort of the point. While the initial point of this piece was to finally prove that the Saints did cheat, I do want to change the narrative of this game, too.
I know that one article can’t really do that, but I do think that Favre deserves a lot of credit for how this game ended up. The Vikings had a ton of turnovers but were still in a position to win at the last second, in one of (if not the) hardest stadium to play in as an opposing team, while severely injured. Sure, he threw an interception that you should never throw, but he should’ve never been in that position to begin with, either from an injury or coaching stand-point.
So, if nothing else, I just want to say, thank you, Brett.
This play came on the next drive, you can see Favre attempt to make a play on the fumble. I mean, the guy is 40 and more purple and blue than pale white, you gotta love the guy.
It’s almost heart breaking to see him limp back to the sidelines (while also noting how close another Saint was to hitting Favre, helmet first, while he attempted to recover Harvin’s fumble).
I don’t want to do you guys like that, so I’ll offset Harvin’s fumble with this beauty of a run from AP in the fourth quarter.
Because, after that we have to get right back to the infuriatingly negative.
What a surprise! Another late hit!
On top of that, there was clearly defensive holding. The holding is what Favre was attempting to argue with the referee about, which didn’t help but the key is, when your plan is to cheat, you know that not all of the penalties will be called (especially when you’re playing at home and also representing a city that was destroyed by a hurricane/a government that decided that you can cut taxes and live under the ocean at the same time).
I truly believe that Gregg Williams knew that his team couldn’t beat this Vikings squad, not legitimately, so he used his home-field advantage, the still lingering guilt that surrounded Katrina and the stadium they were in and the fact that again, not every cheap play will be called, to beat the Vikings.
I mean I guess it’s his job to win and he won, but I still think it needs to be listed as an asterisk next to their Super Bowl win. “Yes, we won, but we did it by cheating and the Vikings should’ve beat us”. That’s all I’m asking! Someone find a cheap engraving machine!
And for those of you who will still pretend that these late hits didn’t have an impact on the outcome of the game itself (outside of those specific plays). Meaning, that these plays didn’t impact OTHER plays. Watch Favre fall down here, as his new muscle memory causing him to essentially collapse.
After the above, though, Favre continued his dominance. This play was yet another perfectly thrown ball to Bernard Berrian, who had been mostly absent during the season but came alive during the NFC Championship (Mostly because Favre was on fire, not literally, although I’m sure Gregg Williams considering doing that while prepping for the game).
Because of yet another Red-Zone (Or infrared zone) fumble, Favre needed to lead the team down the field, injured, in one of the most hostile environments possible, in the fourth quarter, to tie it up. Again, this game could’ve been one of the most definitive of Favre’s illustrious career. He passed Joe Montana not once, but TWICE in the game (for most completed post season passes and the most post season yardage). Instead, people point to it as the reason why Favre is NOT the GOAT. Because Favre always made bad choices and as he aged his diminishing skills couldn’t compensate for those bad decisions.
Quick aside, the fact that this screen shot, again, was juxtaposed with this:
Should’ve made the NFL punish the Saints (even more than they did, and then didn’t).
If anything, the 2009 season proved all of that to be false, or at least exaggerated. Until, you know, this game. I hate to keep jumping back and forth between defending Favre and then showing more enraging clips, but the more I think about it the more I think that this game was Favre personified. It was his best game. It showed more grit, determination and talent in 60 minutes than most quarterbacks have in their entire careers, and it took the opponent breaking every rule possible to stop.
This is the second to last drive, the drive in which Favre and company tied it up. You can see that he is working through the pain, despite being hit yet again while really not holding the ball.
The Vikes did tie it up, thanks mostly to this blatant pass interference penalty and Favre being Favre. I wanted to add this as it just showed another cheap play that the Saints luckily didn’t get away with, but it’s just more of the same from the Saints and Williams that was essentially necessary because of another immaculate throw from Favre.
On the following drive the Vikings defense held, and they got the ball back with the game tied with less than two minutes on the clock. All the Vikings had to do was get into field goal range, as they had one of the better kickers in the league (‘s history), especially indoors, on their roster in Ryan Longwell.
I won’t pain you further by doing a play-by-play breakdown as to how this game ended. The end of that game is seared into our collective memory, which is what makes Payton’s attempts at somehow painting him the victim of some lack of representation, etc. all the more infuriating. The history books will always say that the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, a team coached by Payton. To hear him now try to also remove the asterisk many that follow the NFL attach to that fact, is the definition of having cake and eating it too.
So, anytime you run into a Saints fan/apologist online that tries to downplay what happened in the Superdome in 2009, show them this article. Because they might be able to brag about their one Super Bowl win, or complain about the lack of pass interference calls the last couple of seasons, but deep down they know that without the above coordinated/repeated attempts to hurt Favre instead of trying to stop him with, you know, play calling, they would be 0-3 in their last three post-season games against the Purple.