What I am about to engage in now is what is called a "futile exercise", because to anyone who has an I.Q. above that of a carrot's, the answer is- "there is no way to ever know". Football games are tricky like that- any given Sunday. (Or Monday. Or Thursday. Or occasionally Saturday... Tuesday... Wednesday... but not Friday. Yet.) Keep in mind, just because we should have beat the Saints, and the Saints beat the Colts, there's still no real transitive property here- it's far from guaranteed we would have beat the Colts ourselves.
However, like I'm sure many a Vikes fan, it's been a question that has rolled around my head intermittently ever since the NFCCG '09, when we were a hair away from finding out. Now that something we've all known for a long time has been factually confirmed- that the Saints were playing dirty- the question is screaming so loudly at me I had to get it out here.
What I'm going to do, rather than even come close to answering this question (I mean, obviously, I'm going to find a way for it to be "yes" if I were to try), is go over a brief list of pros/ cons to the Vikings entering Valhalla.
After the Leap of Faith.
First off- I have to say that previously, I really always felt the answer was "no". Why? Because had the refs worn their reading glasses at least during OT, and the Saints not gotten their field goal, allowing us a chance to take the prize, we were left with no Sidney Rice, no Cedric Griffin, and a Brett Favre who could barely walk. Take that to a relatively un-injured and un-hindered Colts for the big prize, and Peyton Manning's ring finger is getting heavier. Again, any given Sunday... but just looking at it from that angle and it would be hard to see us getting the win.
That said, if we could get a time machine, go back, and make the Saints play clean and within the rules, two major things would have happened. One, Favre's ankle wouldn't have been whatever the hell that picture after the game was. Secondly, odds are it would have never gone to OT, sparring Rice and Griffin. Why is that? Because Favre would have been considerably less spooked, and for once might not have thrown a critical interception- leaving Longwell to make the FG and take the game. (Granted, our luck with kickers in NFCCGs is not historically stellar. Nor is Favre's decision making in such situations. But let's just say.)
That changes things. Suddenly, a very resurgent Minnesota Vikings, fresh off a drubbing of both the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, as well as a holding off of the number one NFC seed (and the team also racing with the Colts for a 16-game winning season, until beaten by those same Cowboys late in the season), takes the field against an admittedly dangerous, competent, talented foe. And one that has arguably the greatest QB in NFL history behind center, minus the neck surgeries.
So what would happen? The Vikings win if...
PRO- Vicious pass rush vs. poor O-line. Like the Vikings, the Colts made it to the Super Bowl despite their offensive line. Saturday good... Saturday very good, especially when Saturday motivated by steak. (I believe he gets one for every win.) But that aside... well, there wasn't a ton available there to stop the Williams Wall, Jared Allen, and Ray Edwards from unleashing hell. While the fearsome foursome couldn't find Drew Brees in the NFCCG, the Colt's O-line was nothing compared to the Saints'.
CON- Manning hard to sack. Very, very hard to sack. Yes, the best way to shut down a fearsome offense is by sacking the QB- just ask the New York Giants. But Manning might be the hardest QB to sack in NFL history. (Ironic, considering his father's seeming fondness for it.) Insanely quick decision making, insanely quick release- Allen's got barely seconds to get to the guy.
PRO- Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin. Heck even throw Bernard Berrian in there, considering he didn't have a bad game by any means against the Saints. Roll Chester Taylor and Visanthe Shianco in there, and you have the same formidable mix of offensive weaponry that helped empower the nearly magical Vikings' '09 season, and let's not forget it. The Colts' D wasn't the greatest that year- they weren't terrible, but their skills were primarily on the other side of the ball, and they would have had a harder time shutting down such a blend of offensive mastery.
CON- Peterson still had fumblitis. This might be the easiest thing to forget when discussing this futile discussion, because immediately after the NFCCG, Peterson's fumbles were almost 100% a thing of the past. However, they were still very much a real problem at that time, and in all likelihood would have remained so in the Super Bowl. Heck, had Peterson not fumbled in the red zone after an turnover against the Saints in the NFCCG, we would likely have an answer to this discussion already.
PRO- Antoine Winfield was healthy, and Cedric Griffin was really coming into his own. Our secondary has been a disaster, and that dates back to '09. However, it wasn't as bad then as it is now, and it was actually half-way decent against the Saints' prolific pass attack, which was comparable to the Colts'.
CON- Asher Allen, Benny Sapp, Madieu Williams... yeah, the secondary was still pretty bad, and we would be again going up against that Peyton Manning fella. In reality, our best hope would have been similar to what happened against the Saints, even with us getting the win- the D barely manages to keep it a tit-for-tat game, staving their offense off just enough to allow ours to consistently answer.
PRO- I see your Peyton Manning, and raise you one Brett Favre. We all remember it. While Manning may have been the QB to get the coveted NFL MVP award, Favre wasn't far behind, and he was having an insane season. The ol' gunslinger had that one last season in the tank (and exactly that one last season, as we tragically discovered in '10), and I can't imagine for the life of me that he would have gassed out for the Super Bowl.
CON- The guys charged with protecting him. Saints playing dirty or not, our line should have still done a better job of keeping them away from Favre. While the Colts actually have this thing called "class" and would not have played dirty, and while their pass rush wouldn't have likely equaled the Saints' even had they been playing clean, it's absurd to believe Favre would have been unscathed.
And unfortunately, to conclude this piece, I have to have a ‘con' with no pro-
CON- Brad Childress was our Head Coach. While I despise Sean Payton- especially right now- I'll be the first to admit that the ‘ambush' on-side kick to start the half was a stroke of genius, and it's not something Mr. Vanilla would have ever had the ability to come up with. Hell, the man couldn't even count to 11, and like AP's red zone fumble, if not for that, we might have the answer to this question right now. (Or more accurately, a little over two years ago.) The man was bungling things up all season long, and he lucked into '09 and that contract extension- courtesy Brett Favre essentially ignoring him. While I doubt the Super Bowl was when Favre would have suddenly become Mr. Humble and taken Chilly's sage advice, there's still a perfectly good chance Chilly would have found a way to screw us out of a Championship.
There you have it, boys and girls. Would the Vikings have won the Super Bowl in '09? (...technically '10.) Like I said above, guessing is a futile task, and even though I do technically have more ‘cons' listed above than ‘pros', I could still see it having happened. But on any given Sunday...
What say you, fellow Viking faithful? No poll or anything because that would just be silly, but let's hear your pros and cons for how the Vikings would have/ would not have concluded '09 the way it SHOULD have played out.