At least turf, history favor the Vikings

The New Orleans Saints present a tall order for Minnesota, especially on the road, but the Vikings have had success on artificial turf and against the Saints lately.

The Vikings are one victory from making their first Super Bowl appearance since 1976, but getting that win figures to be extremely difficult.

The Vikings, coming off a surprisingly easy 34-3 victory over Dallas in their playoff game last weekend, will face the high-powered New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the NFC title game at the Superdome. One of the primary issues for the Vikings will be the fact they aren't playing this game in the Metrodome.

Minnesota was 9-0 at home this season and quarterback Brett Favre threw an incredible 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. On the road, the Vikings are only 4-4 and they have not won an away game since Nov. 1.

The Vikings dropped games at Arizona, Carolina and Chicago to complete their regular-season road schedule. One thing the Vikings might have working in their favor Sunday is the game is going to be played indoors.

That means it figures to be extremely noisy — something the Vikings benefitted from as the home team against Dallas and will have to deal with on offense at New Orleans — but the Vikings also seem to play much better indoors on artificial turf.

Their 30-17 loss on Dec. 6 at Arizona came with the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium closed, but the Cardinals play on natural grass. So do the Panthers and Bears. The fast track seems to be a better fit for an offense that features dynamic wide receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice and running back Adrian Peterson.

"I like staying indoors," Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "With our track record, we put up more points indoors. I don't know why. I kind of don't care why. We're going to play in a dome again. Same type of environment. Same type of turf. So we usually explode on turf grounds."

The Vikings also have had previous success in New Orleans.

Minnesota is 8-5 on the road against the Saints all-time and has won the last three matchups at the Superdome. That includes a 30-27 victory on Oct. 6, 2008 that was decided when Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell made a 30-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Gus Frerotte was the Vikings' starting quarterback in that game and obviously Favre has provided a significant upgrade.

The Saints, though, also are that much better and appeared to get back on track after a late-season slump with a convincing 45-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at the Superdome in their first playoff game. The Vikings' top assignment will be trying to contain Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees as he attempts to test the secondary by spreading the ball around.

The Vikings figured Tony Romo and Miles Austin would be a tough matchup, but this assignment is that much more difficult.

"He knows that offense like the back of his hand," Vikings coach Brad Childress said of Brees. "It is hard to catch him in the pocket and he usually hits his back foot and lets the ball go. He understands that offense. He is an anticipatory thrower, he throws early, and he doesn't throw hard. He's typically throwing to holes and having a wide receiver run to the football."

SERIES HISTORY: 28th overall meeting. Vikings lead series, 20-7. Minnesota is 18-7 in the regular season against New Orleans and 2-0 in the playoffs. The Vikings beat the Saints, 44-10, in a 1987 NFC wild-card game and 34-16 in the 2000 NFC divisional playoffs.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Consecutive games the Vikings have won at the Superdome.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just one game away from the Super Bowl. If you don't get motivated for that then you don't need to be on this team." — Cornerback Benny Sapp when asked what the Vikings' motivation would be this week as they prepare for the Saints.

NOTES

  • DE Ray Edwards did not practice Wednesday because of a knee sprain suffered last Sunday against Dallas. It's uncertain whether he will be able to play Sunday at New Orleans.

  • DT Kevin Williams did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury. Williams appeared to injure the knee near the end of the game.

  • WR Bernard Berrian (ankle) was limited in practice Wednesday.

  • LG Steve Hutchinson (shoulder) was limited in practice Wednesday.

  • LB Ben Leber (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday.

  • CB Antoine Winfield (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday.

  • DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) was able to participate in all of practice Wednesday.

  • CB Benny Sapp (ankle) was able to participate in all of practice Wednesday.

  • NT Pat Williams (elbow) was able to participate in all of practice Wednesday.

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