In something that is not new for Vikings fans, a season of high expectations ended in bitter disappointment as Garret Hartley made his longest field goal of the season.
Yes, Brett Favre choked on the last play and tried to force a pass when he could have run it 10 yards into good position. But maybe he didn't run it because he had a sprained ankle because his offensive line let him get smacked 17 times in this game.
No sacks, but let me repeat that for you: 17 times, including two brutal late hits by a Saints defense that seemed intent on playing dirty. Peyton Manning doesn't get hit like that, his blockers don't allow people to hit their QB, PERIOD.
It reminds me of the 2007 NFC Championship, Favre made the last mistake, the one that people remember, but not the only mistake. Even more true in this game.
Percy Harvin fumbled inside the Vikings 20, and Bernard Berrian and Adrian Peterson both fumbled inside the red zone, (I count that fumble on Peterson, not Favre, Peterson was paying to much attention to his lanes and never accepted the handoff).
I do think that Favre did a pretty job for what he was given, and marched them down the field several times. I think most indicative is that he started the first two drives perfect, it was not until after he kept receiving hit after hit, (and not the kinds of bump hits where the QB loses his footing and just falls down), some of which just hurt me to watch on TV, that he broke down a bit, overthrew some receivers on plays he'd normally make, and made a couple of bad decisions.
On one play, the dirtiest Saints player of all, Bobby McCray made a diving, classless lunge at Favre's knees and as Favre went down a 300-pound lineman pancaked him at the same time.
One of the toughest guys in football had to be helped off the field and played the rest of the game injured.
Favre spent more time wincing in pain than he did celebrating this game. But he also came, talked to Peterson, helped him get his nerves back together on the sideline after a trio of fumbles, and he set up a 1- and 2-yard Peterson touchdown run with his passes.
Defense played fantastically, special teams were steady except for a 60 yard kick return to open the half and a forty yard one to open overtime.
Offense was able to get down the field, but a pair of redzone turnovers killed them, (and neither of those was a Favre int).
Then in overtime, Chad Greenway made what I consider the "last" mistake of this Viking team when he missed an easy INT on a ball that was bobbled right into his hands from a foot away.
Of course I am still angry about this game. Angry because of three incredibly poor referee calls on the overtime drive.
First, on fourth and inches Greenway came in and pounded the football back from the middle of Pierre Thomas' chest all the way down to his hip as he was coming up towards the fourth-down marker, and a close look shows that because of the hit the ball clever never passed it, yet after review it was still named a first down for the Saints.
Next, a ridiculous pass interference call on a ball that was not only uncatchable, but there was no contact anyway, it was entanglement, which is NOT a penalty. That was a horrendous call on a huge play.
Lastly, on the second to last play of the drive, Meachem bobbled a ball all the way down to the ground and it was maintained that it was a 13-yard reception, which ended up putting Hartley in range for the kick that he made.
Most of my basic fears came true in this game; the Vikings offensive line again showed why they suck at pass blocking, defense played well but was almost entirely unable to even get a finger on Drew Brees and while steady failed to generate the big play, letting three interceptions and fumble recovery slip by during this game, Peterson fumbled a couple of inopportune times, and finally Favre got nervous and made a bad decision.
I might also note that Pierre Thomas scored on a touchdown run in the first half when his knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line. Who knows, might have also made the difference.
Ben Leber made a boneheaded play trying to make a spectacular interception and only succeeding in knocking it away when Tyrell Johnson was in perfect position to make the play behind him.
Phil Loadholt got burned every other play while Percy Harvin did more harm than good this game, (sigh, couldn't the Vikes have drafted Michael Oher and gone for Harvin in the second round?).
Brett Favre is owed an apology from every single one of those big guys up front. Almost no quarterback can keep making plays consistently when he's getting that many big hits, and it's almost unthinkable for a 40-year-old QB (yet Favre did and set up another AP touchdown, and watched Harvin fumble).
If the Vikings could have controlled their fumbling, they would have won this game, and Brett Favre, despite his mistakes, kept them in it the whole second half.
Oh, I completely forget to mention on the 35-yard line, Childress calls two unimaginative run plays in a row, both fail to even gain a yard, and then his team gets penalized for an unimaginably dumb penalty of 12 men in the huddle, which led to the 3rd and long with 19 seconds left to go and needing to gain at least 10 yards to get in good FG range and Favre making a bad decision, probably because of how beat up he was by that point.
So bad game, but no, I don't think Brett Favre needs to apologize to Vikings fans after this loss, he was perfect until finally he just broke down under a barrage of hard hits that no quarterback should be allowed to endure.
No, the Vikings offensive line needs to apologize to fans for being unable to protect their quarterback, letting him get hit one out of every three dropbacks.
So yes, it's a day that ends on an incredibly sad, and heartbreaking note for both Vikings fans and fans of Brett Favre.
The disappointment is still ringing in my chest, and the only possible positive thought I can come up with is that maybe this makes Pat Williams and Brett Favre more likely to come back for another shot next season, though if I were Favre I probably wouldn't even bother seeing the way this offensive line played today and throughout the season.
Needless to say I'll be rooting next week for my second favorite quarterback, Peyton Manning.