Vikings already thinking about Saints

Within minutes of enjoying their first playoff win under Brad Childress, the Vikings were already turning their attention to the New Orleans Saints for the NFC Championship Game. It will be a significant challenge for a team that hasn't won a road game in the last two months.

The Vikings' 34-3 pasting of the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional playoff game earned them the right to try to slow the high-flying New Orleans Saints this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at the Superdome.

It will be a significant test for a team that is 9-0 in the Metrodome but went 4-4 on the road in the regular season and lost all three away games it played in December. In fact, the Vikings haven't won away from home since beating the Green Bay Packers 38-26 on Nov. 1 at Lambeau Field.

The Saints are coming off a 45-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at the Superdome and will be looking to stay on a roll offensively behind quarterback Drew Brees.

"They're an extremely good team, they've proven that all year," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "They have a great offense, defense, special teams. You can't say enough about them."

New Orleans leads the NFL in scoring at 31.9 points per game and the Vikings are second at 29.4. Both teams showed what they can do when they are clicking offensively in the divisional round.

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Cowboys and three of his scoring tosses went to favorite target Sidney Rice.

Favre, a Mississippi native, grew up rooting for the Saints and even at one point admitted to New Orleans coach Sean Payton that secretly he is a Saints fan. Favre, of course, followed the Saints during a time when the franchise was terrible and things looked bleak.

That is no longer the case.

"The Saints are explosive, we all know that," Favre said. "They are explosive on defense as well. So I think it is easier said than done that you contain them, but it's the Superdome. I don't think too many people down there will be compassionate that I am with the Vikings coming in. They've waited a long time for it. That's going to be a factor that we have to handle obviously.

"I think it goes without saying how happy I am that we have this opportunity."

The Vikings and Favre will see a familiar face in the Saints defense. Safety Darren Sharper played for the Vikings from 2005-08 and before that he and Favre were teammates with the Packers. The Vikings allowed Sharper to walk after last season and he ended up tying for the NFL lead with nine interceptions in the regular season.

"I think Darren is a great player," Favre said. "I had a chance to play with him. I had a chance to play against him. This year is no exception. But we're playing the Saints. One way or another I kind of feel what he's feeling, I guess. You want to get your team back, if that's his motivation or whatever. We're facing a very good Saints football team and Darren is one of the reasons they are where they are. Along with all the other guys on their team we have a huge challenge in front of us."

LINEUP WATCH: Tyrell Johnson appears to have regained sole possession of the strong safety job. After splitting time with Jamarca Sanford in the regular-season finale, that was the plan again Sunday against Dallas but it never happened. Johnson played the entire game and had one of his best performances of the season. Johnson appeared to be far more aggressive than he had been through much of the regular season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Touchdown catches by Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice against the Cowboys, a figure that ties an NFL single-game playoff record.

NOTES

  • DE Ray Edwards, who had three sacks against Dallas, suffered what is believed to be a sprained right knee against the Cowboys.

  • QB Brett Favre finished his first season as the Vikings' starting quarterback with 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in the Metrodome. Four of those touchdown passes came Sunday in the playoff victory.

  • WR Percy Harvin had only one catch for 1 yard and three carries for 23 yards against the Cowboys but the rookie found himself lined up all over the field and was brought in motion deep behind Brett Favre in certain formations as a way to confuse the defense.

  • RB Adrian Peterson, who had only nine carries in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants, had 63 yards on 26 carries against the Cowboys with a long run of 11 yards. Peterson has now gone eight consecutive games without a 100-yard effort.

  • CB Antoine Winfield played in the slot in nickel situations and outside in the short-yardage base package against Dallas. The Vikings are still trying to get Winfield's injured right foot a rest at times, thus he did not play the entire game and Benny Sapp still saw plenty of snaps.