NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- They sure ain't the Aints anymore.
The New Orleans Saints are heading to their first Super Bowl after battering Brett Favre and beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime Sunday on unheralded Garrett Hartley's 40-yard field goal.
Favre threw away Minnesota's best chance to win, tossing an interception deep in New Orleans territory in the closing seconds of regulation. Then the Saints won the coin toss and soon it was over.
The team that had no home five years ago after Hurricane Katrina ravaged its city and the Superdome overcame a slew of mistakes in the biggest game the Big Easy has ever seen.
"This is for everybody in this city," said coach Sean Payton, the architect of the Saints' turnaround. "This stadium used to have holes in it and used to be wet. It's not wet anymore. This is for the city of New Orleans."
Forget the paper bag masks and that long history of losing started in 1967. Moments after Hartley's kick, they were toasting their hometown winners on Bourbon Street.
And in the Superdome, once a squalid refuge after Katrina, they boogied in the aisles as confetti covered the field.
"It's a moment I've been waiting for for a long time and obviously we're not done yet," said Drew Brees, Payton's hand-picked quarterback for the Saints' renaissance.
The Saints (15-3) will meet Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (16-2) in the Super Bowl in two weeks in Miami.
It's the first time the top seeds in each conference made the big game since the 1993 season.
"Brett prepared us, but now we've got another challenge in Peyton," safety Darren Sharper said.
The biggest error was made by Favre. Flushed from the pocket, he seemed to have room to run to set up a field goal. Instead, the 40-year-old quarterback threw cross-field and was intercepted by Tracy Porter at the 22.
That finished off Minnesota's chance for its first Super Bowl trip in 33 years -- and opportunity to win it for the first time.
New Orleans won the coin toss, Brees guided it to the Minnesota 22 and Hartley, suspended at the start of the season for using a banned stimulant, split the uprights 4:45 into OT.
"Just helping my team get to Miami," Hartley said. "Just doing my part."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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