The quarterbacks meet Sunday in a marquee NFC championship matchup at the Superdome - where Favre won his lone Super Bowl title 13 years ago.
New Orleans started 13-0 and used Brees’ NFL-leading 34 touchdowns to earn the top seed in the NFC for the first time. The Saints (14-3) have never been to the Super Bowl and made their lone NFC championship appearance three years ago in a loss at Chicago.
Brees threw for three touchdowns and 247 yards last Saturday in a 45-14 win over Arizona that seemed to erase the sting of a season-ending three-game skid.
“We all see the team that won 13 games in a row, not the team that struggled against the Cowboys and let one get away from us against Tampa,” Brees said.
Brees’ impressive season seems to have been overshadowed by Favre, who finished with 33 touchdowns after opting to come out of retirement and join Minnesota (13-4). The 40-year-old seemed to be fading down the stretch as the Vikings lost three of five, much as he did last season with the Jets.
Favre, though, was at his best last Sunday in a 34-3 rout of Dallas. He turned in his first four-touchdown effort of his postseason career, throwing three scores to Sidney Rice(notes), to gain his fifth NFC title game appearance.
Favre, a native of nearby Kiln, Miss., led Green Bay to a Super Bowl XXXI victory over New England in New Orleans before losing to Denver the next season. He lost in NFC title games to San Francisco after the 1997 season and to the Giants two years ago.
Favre is anxious for his first opportunity with the Vikings.
“I hope the little experience I have in these games which is more than most will help some,” Favre said. “But that’s not to say I don’t get nervous or get stressed as well.”
Brees and Favre have plenty of weapons at their disposal. Marques Colston(notes) and Robert Meachem(notes) each had nine touchdown receptions for New Orleans, and Pierre Thomas(notes), Mike Bell(notes) and Reggie Bush(notes) all scored at least five rushing touchdowns.
Bush had a major impact last week with a 46-yard touchdown run and an 83-yard punt return for a score. He’s scored four touchdowns in three career playoff games.
“He’s as healthy as he’s been, and he was something,” coach Sean Payton said. “You saw it not only on the punt return, but you saw it on the big, long touchdown run. He’s a dynamic player.”
Favre may have had his biggest impact on Rice, who was an afterthought his first two years before finishing fourth in the NFL with 1,312 yards receiving in 2009. Rice’s three touchdown catches last week tied an NFL postseason record, and he finished with six receptions for 141 yards.
“With the addition of No. 4, it’s been huge for me,” Rice said. “It’s been great for me, and I’m thankful for that.”
A passing game that includes Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) (11 touchdowns) and Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin(notes) has taken the pressure off 1,000-yard back Adrian Peterson, whose 18 rushing touchdowns led the league.
Harvin, though, is listed as questionable because of migraine headaches. Coach Brad Childress called the situation “less than ideal” and said Harvin’s ability to fly with the team Saturday to New Orleans could be affected.
The Saints will try to contain those offensive stars with a defense that ranked 25th in the NFL. That unit, though, saw 11 players combine for 26 interceptions.
Nine of those picks were by safety Darren Sharper(notes), who tied for the league lead. Sharper spent his previous four seasons with Minnesota after being Favre’s teammate at Green Bay his first eight years in the league.
“I think Darren, I played with him numerous years, and he’s one of those guys that is very instinctive,” Favre said. “I see Darren and he looks physically as good as he’s ever looked. But his instincts, those are the things you can’t coach.”
Childress says he has an idea about what to expect from Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ “multiple defense” scheme.
“Defensively, a little familiarity with Gregg and that defense,” Childress said. “Most recently, (playing) Jacksonville last year and two years ago he was with the Redskins when he came in with Joe Gibbs.”
That pass rush won’t be as effective if end Ray Edwards(notes) isn’t available. Edwards injured his knee in the third quarter against Dallas and returned for a few plays before leaving for good with the Vikings in command.
“We’re a better team when Ray plays like that,” Allen said. “When Ray can take advantage of one-on-one blocks and get to the quarterback like that, we were swarming all around.”
This will be Favre’s first road playoff game in six years. The Vikings went 9-0 at home compared to a 4-4 road mark.
“That’s going to be a factor that we have to handle obviously,” Favre said. “I think it goes without saying how happy I am that we have this opportunity.”
Minnesota has won four straight over New Orleans, averaging 33.3 points.