Performing with his usual flair on the playoff stage, Moss caught scoring passes of 53 and 68 yards to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-16 victory over the Saints.
The win puts the Vikings (12-5) in the NFC championship game for the second time in three years under coach Dennis Green. They will meet the winner of Sunday's divisional playoff game between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
"I would love for Philadelphia to win so we can come back here (for the NFC championship)," Vikings owner Red McCombs said. "Otherwise, if we go to New York that's fine, we'll win there."
The Saints (11-7) contained the high-powered offense of the St. Louis Rams last week for 3 1/2 quarters and earned their first playoff win in the 34-year history of the franchise. But on Saturday, they were burned by Moss and his Pro Bowl partner Carter.
In his first postseason game, Daunte Culpepper utilized his prolific tandem of receivers, passing for 302 yards and three touchdowns. Showing no ill effects from a high ankle sprain, he also rushed for 51 yards on four carries.
Carter had eight receptions for 120 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown.
"I'm just driving the car and allowing those guys (Moss and Carter) to make the plays," said Culpepper, who completed 17-of-31 passes. "I just have to let them do their thing and not turn the ball over."
On Minnesota's third play from scrimmage at its own 47, Culpepper lofted a pass down the left sideline to Moss, who ran by Thomas, caught the ball just inside the New Orleans 40, darted to the middle, eluding safety Darren Perry, and raced into the end zone.
The touchdown came 3:03 into the game and set the tone for the Vikings, who racked up 429 total yards.
"Somebody had to ignite this crowd and my teammates," Moss said. "I was just starting the party and kicking things off."
After Doug Brien of the Saints and Minnesota's Gary Anderson kicked field goals, Culpepper connected with Carter on a 17-yard touchdown with 1:29 left in the second quarter to give the Vikings a 17-3 halftime lead.
"We came out today and showed why we are the No. 2 seed in the NFC," Carter said. "After the way we ended our season (with three losses), a lot of people weren't expecting great things from us today."
Moss struck again on Minnesota's third play from scrimmage in the second half, this time turning a one-yard pass into a 68-yard TD. On a 3rd-and-1 play from the 32, Culpepper fired left to Moss, who used his long strides to get between Mathis and Perry. Safety Sammy Knight missed a tackle at the New Orleans 35 and Moss cruised into the end zone, increasing Minnesota's lead to 24-3.
"On that second TD catch, he (Moss) did things that not very many guys can do," Carter said. "He caught the ball in traffic and he ran right past their defense. They had an angle on him but he outran that angle. He has a nickname 'Superfreak' and that is why."
In five postseason games in his three NFL seasons, Moss has 26 catches for 584 yards and seven touchdowns.
Anderson kicked a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter and Robert Smith scored on a two-yard run in the fourth quarter to give Minnesota a season-high in points. The Vikings scored 27 or more points in 10 regular season games.
Minnesota's maligned defense, which had allowed a total of 104 points in a season-ending three-game losing streak, kept New Orleans out of the end zone in the first half and forced two turnovers in the second half, interceptions by cornerback Robert Tate and linebacker Kailee Wong. Linebacker Dwayne Rudd had a team-leading 13 tackles.
"Our defense is good enough to win a Super Bowl," Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel said. "I don't care what outsiders say or think."
Minnesota's offensive line held the Saints without a sack. With Pro Bowlers La'Roi Glover and Joe Johnson leading the way, the Saints topped the NFL with 66 sacks.
"The offensive line did a tremendous job," Green said. "Defensively, we played better like we thought we could."
"They did a great job of getting things off quick," Saints defensive tackle Norman Hand said. "They hit us with a quick touchdown and that kind of set the tone. We just couldn't make any plays today. Whatever they did, they did right."
Blake suffered a broken foot in a November 19 loss against Oakland, but Aaron Brooks, a second-year quarterback, stepped in and the offense did not skip a beat.
Williams returned for Saturday's game after missing seven weeks with a broken ankle, but was clearly hampered and had just 14 yards on six carries as the Saints again failed to establish a running game.
Cleeland suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in the preseason and the Saints played on Saturday without leading receiver Joe Horn, who sprained his ankle in last week's win over St. Louis.
Forced to crank 48 passes due to an ineffective running game, Brooks completed 30 for 295 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He led the team in rushing with 29 yards on five carries.
Saints rookie running back Chad Morton tied an NFL playoff record with 13 catches for 106 yards. Kellen Winslow, Thurman Thomas and Shannon Sharpe are the only other players to catch 13 passes in a postseason game.
Jackson, who had three touchdowns in last week's win over St. Louis, caught nine passes for 125 yards.
After last week's win, Saints coach Jim Haslett said he believed the Rams were the best team in the NFC. But he may feel differently now.
"Give credit to the Vikings," Haslett said. "I thought they played a great game. They made plays when they had to make them and we didn't make them. They were the better football team."
New Orleans scored its only points of the first half on a 33-yard field goal by Brien in the first quarter. The 10-play, 65-yard drive was highlighted by a 40-yard pass interference penalty by Wasswa Serwanga.
Minnesota responded with a 12-play, 67-yard drive. A 34-yard pass from Culpepper to Carter gave the Vikings 1st-and-goal at the New Orleans 1. But after a false start penalty against tackle Korey Stringer pushed Minnesota back to the 6, Smith was stopped for no gain on a running play and Culpepper threw two incompletions.
The Vikings had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Anderson with 1:36 left in the quarter.
A 30-yard run by Culpepper, his longest this season, highlighted a seven-play, 73-yard drive in the second quarter. After hitting Troy Walters with a four-yard pass on a 3rd-and-2 play to keep the drive alive, Culpepper scampered around right end for 30 yards before he was tackled at the 17.
On the next play, Carter caught a 17-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone over Mathis, increasing Minnesota's lead to 17-3.
Moss made sure Minnesota kept the momentum in the second half with his 68-yard TD, the second-longest in team playoff history. Joe Kapp hit Gene Washington with a 75-yard scoring play in a January 4, 1970 game against Cleveland.
New Orleans responded with an eight-play, 83-yard drive in just four minutes. Brooks completed 7-of-7 passes for 85 yards, including three for 45 yards to Jackson, and capped the drive with the touchdown to Stachelski, his first catch of the year.
A 25-yard run by Smith to the New Orleans 27 set up Anderson's second field goal of the game, a 44-yarder with 4:31 left in the third quarter. Smith finished with 74 yards on 25 carries.
An interception by Tate at the New Orleans 29 set up Minnesota's last touchdown. Facing a blitz, Brooks attempted to dump off a pass, but Tate cut in front of intended receiver Jake Reed near the sideline.
After the turnover, Smith scored on a two-yard run 4:14 into the fourth quarter.
"It's a great feeling to have this opportunity again," Smith said. "It's a new season and we have every bit of confidence that coach Green can lead us to the Super Bowl."