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No revenge factor: Vikings past and present say 2009 loss to Saints is ancient history

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre dives for a fumble after being hit by Saints defender Jabari Greer, left, during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010. Ben Garvin / St. Paul Pioneer Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — New Orleans players are apparently still chortling about their win over the Vikings in the 2009 NFC championship game.

Not long after the Saints defeated Carolina 31-26 to advance to Sunday, Jan. 14's divisional playoff at U.S. Bank Stadium, Vikings radio analyst and former linebacker Ben Leber got several text messages from players who were on the winning side of that 31-28 overtime game eight years ago at the Superdome.

"I was getting trash talk from some former Saints players," Leber said Monday. "I'm getting pumped up for this game."

Leber, who had five tackles in the epic defeat, wouldn't identify those who sent the messages except to say they were "prominent players" from the 2009 Super-Bowl winning team who had been invited to watch Sunday's victory over the Panthers at the Superdome.

Sunday's game will mark the first time since the 2009 NFC championship game the Vikings and the Saints meet in the playoffs. The only remaining players from the teams are Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees and punter Thomas Morstead.

Still, there has been plenty of buzz in Minnesota about getting back at the Saints.

"It will be more of a revenge game for the fans," Robison said. "That was eight years ago. There's very few guys on that team (remaining). There's only one on this team. Nobody here is going to remember that.

"I guess, in a way, yeah, you get an opportunity (for revenge), but we've got to treat it like any other game."

The Saints won Jan. 24, 2010, on a field goal on the first possession of sudden-death overtime. The Vikings had advanced to New Orleans' 33-yard line with 19 seconds left in regulation and the score tied 28 but were penalized for having 12 men on the field before quarterback Brett Favre threw an interception.

Afterward, some Vikings players accused Saints players of trying to knock Favre, then 40, out of the game. In 2011, the NFL initiated the so called "Bountygate" investigation. In 2012, the league ruled there was a system in place that paid Saints players bonuses for injuring opposing players. Coach Sean Payton and then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams suspended for the 2012 season.

"I mean, you've seen the game,'' Robison said. "What were there, three or four personal fouls? So what do you think?''

The Saints were called for two personal fouls for roughing Favre, and had another for unnecessary roughness. Leber said he doesn't believe there was any malice on the part of the Saints.

"What's the one thing that you try to do to any quarterback, especially a guy that has limited mobility and is old? You try to hit him," Leber said. "And because Favre was a little more stagnant, you had those opportunities for some later hits, some questionable hits. So, I had no issue with their approach. We tried to do the same thing to Drew, but Drew is a just little bit more elusive.

"I still even question some of the validity of the whole Bountygate stuff, even after all of these sort of ridiculous investigations. ... The NFL sort of botched that whole investigation. ... We did enough as a team to lose that game, more so than the Saints did to win that game. I look at it on us as missed opportunities.''

When Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright was asked Monday what he remembers about that game, he said, "Just kind of they were out to hurt Favre."

Wright, who came to Minnesota in 2012, said he hears from fans that the Vikings have "a chance to get revenge." But he insisted the game eight years ago "means nothing" to the current players.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who came to Minnesota in 2014, was at the 2009 championship game in the stands because his son, Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, was then a New Orleans assistant. Zimmer said that game doesn't affect this one, and Leber said that's the right approach.

"There shouldn't be any extra motivation for them," he said. "They should go out and win this game for the 2017 team and for themselves and for their coaches. Who gives a crap about us? We had a chance in '09 to win and we blew it."

Still, running back Jerick McKinnon sees one advantage with Vikings fans wanting revenge.

"If it gets our fans an extra reason to be that much louder, I'm for it," he said.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.