The story was unfolding perfectly. Everyone was following the script. The Ol’ Gunslinger Brett Favre had guided the Vikings to a 12-4 record, the NFC North crown, and one game away from the Super Bowl.
And he was playing in the stadium where he won his only Super Bowl: the Superdome!
The naysayers—including Fran Tarkenton—were warming up that crow and sprinkling some Tabasco sauce on it. All was right with the world.
Favre had the ball in his hand with the game tied late in the fourth quarter—although it should not have been that close given the stats. The “Aints” were about to live up to their historic reputation of failures.
Two minutes to go, 3rd-and-8 at the Vikings 23. Favre makes a pass to Bernard Berrian, who breaks a tackle and gets the first down.
Next play, Favre hits Sidney Rice in stride for 20 yards. Then an excellent run by Chester Taylor puts Minnesota within field goal range for the reliable Ryan Longwell.
The Vikings begin setting up for that game winner.
The fairy tale is going to continue!
Two runs to the right for zero yards leads to third down at the Saints’ 33. Then, a penalty—breaking the huddle with 12 men—results in a five yard penalty.
Now a 50-yarder becomes a 55-yarder; it is still within Longwell's range, but not comfortable.
That is when someone forgot their lines.
On a rollout where an obviously hurting Favre could have run for at least a couple of yards (Minnesota had a timeout), the Gunslinger fires across his body.
The Saints CB Tracy Porter forgets his role and intercepts the pass!
Porter ruined the story and Favre never touched the ball again as the Saints won the overtime coin toss.
After a solid return by Pierre Thomas, a gutsy fourth down call, and a questionable pass interference call, Garrett Hartley breaks the curse of the playoff kickers—and redeems himself for that awful miss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—nailing the 40-yard game-winner.
And we are left with the soap opera of “Will Favre retire for real?” and all the garbage that entails.
And the lasting image of Brett Favre is him throwing an interception.
But that play exemplifies Favre and his career.
He has always been known as a risk-taker and an improviser. Had that pass connected, Favre would have been the hero and celebrated for his play.
But if he misses—or god forbid it's intercepted—then Favre is a goat.
The latter happened and Favre is a goat. But the interception fits as well because he is the record-holder for career interceptions.
In fact, he has a tendency to do this at the end of the season.
On Jan. 20, 2008 in the NFC Conference finals, Favre had the ball for the Packers in overtime. On his first OT pass—second play from scrimmage—Favre’s pass was picked off by Corey Webster.
That interception set up Lawrence Tynes’ game-winner that sent the New York Giants to the Super Bowl. It was sweet for Tynes, as he had already missed two field goals in the fourth quarter, including a last-second kick that would have won the game.
Down seven with 9:20 to go, Favre begins to drive the Jets downfield. From his own 13 looking at a 2nd-and-22, Favre hits Chansi Stuckey for 26 yards and a first down. A couple of more passes to Stuckey, then a deep pass to Laveranues Coles gets the Jets down to the Dolphins’ 29 yard line.
And then, Brett Favre does what Brett Favre does: looking for Stuckey once again, Favre passes to Andre Goodman. Problem is, Goodman is a cornerback for Miami.
Yet, another interception. While he would get the ball back one last time—with 17 seconds left—nothing could be done and his last pass was part of a series of laterals.
Three consecutive seasons ended on an interception—at least next to last pass of his season. Has Favre ended his tenure with another team with a pick?
Well, I am not getting into the retirement discussion for Favre, as I do not really care. But it was certainly an appropriate way to end.
What is sad in all of this is that Favre is the story here, not that the Saints made it to the Super Bowl after decades of being inept.
Maybe they will overcome that history just as the Buccaneers did in Super Bowl XXXVII. But on this day, it is not about New Orleans, but No. 4.
Some will say the story is unfinished; that it did not end the way it was scripted. That Porter screwed it up. Or maybe it was Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress who messed up (the huddle penalty).
But given Favre’s penchant for throwing interceptions, maybe the story did end as it was scripted.
Perhaps we should have seen it coming.
Apparently Tracy Porter saw it coming.
That is because he read the revised version of the script: the one rewritten to make it more realistic.
So maybe Porter did not forget his role but simply played it to perfection.
After all, it was only appropriate that Favre’s season ended on an interception.
This article originally appeared on Uncle Popov's Drunken Sports Rant on Monday, January 25, 2010.