Favre hit early and often by Saints

NEW ORLEANS – This is how thorough the New Orleans Saints were with their plan to hit Brett Favre(notes).

Some 30 minutes after the game was over, Favre gathered himself from the Minnesota Vikings' locker room and headed for a postgame media session. As he walked through the bowels of the Louisiana Superdome, dejected from the 31-28 overtime loss in the NFC championship game, he walked past a fracas between a security guard and a Saints fan. The angry and apparently inebriated fan got to the point that he threw his beer, hitting both the guard and Favre.

That was thematic of the night for the 40-year-old Favre, who will once again ponder retirement this offseason. Regardless of his decision, no one will quite believe Favre is walking away or not until next season begins (and even ends).

But be sure of this: Favre limped away from this game, literally hurting from head to toe. In the first quarter, defensive end Bobby McCray(notes) hit Favre so hard that Favre thought his teeth had been knocked out. Along the way, Favre hurt his left wrist, had a softball-sized strawberry on his left biceps and got high-lowed on a hit in the third quarter that badly sprained his left ankle.

If this were a movie, it would have been a football version of "No Country for Old Men" with the Saints playing Javier Bardem's disturbing role as Anton Chigurh.

"That was as hard as I've been hit this year," said Favre, who had to brace himself on a table as he walked away from the podium because of the damage to his ankle. "I've felt better. It was a physical game. A lot of hits, but you win that [and] you sure feel a little bit better. The style of defense that they play, we knew there would be those types of hits."

Did the Saints knock Favre into retirement? Favre was asked how long it would be before he made his decision.

"I would not say months. But I know people will roll their eyes," Favre said. "In a situation like this, I really don't want to make a decision right now based solely on what's happened [Sunday]. I do know the year could not have gone any better aside from us not going to Miami. I really enjoyed the guys. I wonder if I can hold up, especially after a day like [Sunday] physically and mentally. That was pretty draining. I am going to go home in a couple of days and talk it over with the family."

This game was draining because the Saints made sure to smack Favre time and again. The Saints were twice whistled for personal fouls for hits on Favre and played as if they were willing to accept more. The blows weren't cheap, but they were hard and they were constant.

McCray's hit was flagged in the first quarter came after Favre handed off and appeared to go for a block. The other personal foul was when lineman Anthony Hargrove(notes) took Favre to the ground. By the second half, the Saints at least had Favre dancing and throwing a little sooner than he wanted, even though he finished the game completing 28 of 46 for 310 yards and one touchdown.

Really, Favre played well enough that the Vikings could have won in regulation if not for five turnovers, including three fumbles. One particularly costly turnover came in the second quarter when the Vikings recovered a muffed punt by Reggie Bush(notes), but then fumbled the ball back two plays later on a bad exchange between Favre and running back Adrian Peterson.

During regulation, the Vikings outgained the Saints by more than double (475 to 225 yards) and ran nearly twice as many plays (82 to 45). Usually, those numbers lead to an easy victory. Instead, the Saints' defense kept coming and coming, particularly after Favre.

"We're not trying to be malicious, but we are trying to hit him and hit him a lot," said linebacker Jonathan Vilma(notes), who had one interception and one fumble recovery.

"We came in with that intent," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita(notes) said. "This is how the game is played. You don't ever want to commit a bunch of personal fouls, particularly against a team like that. But you have to make him know you're there."

The Saints danced on the edge of two or three more personal fouls. The hit where Favre hurt his ankle could have easily been called a penalty. Another in the first half when safety Darren Sharper(notes) hit Favre just after he threw was similarly close. Not that Favre, who might be the toughest guy to ever play the position, complained much. Really, the biggest problem for the Vikings was how they handled the final seconds of regulation, leading to one terrible final moment for Favre.

What could be the last pass of his storied career was an interception (eerily similar to when his last pass for the Green Bay Packers was picked by the New York Giants in the NFC title game two years ago).

Favre is hit by McCray and Remi Ayodele.
(Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire)

Facing a third-and-10 from the New Orleans 33-yard line, the Vikings had a chance to run the clock down for a final play that could have been a 51-yard field goal attempt. Instead, the Vikings called a timeout with the intent of running another play to get slightly closer.

The Vikings then bungled that by getting called for 12 men on the field, moving them back five yards and making the possible field goal even tougher. Forced to throw for more significant yardage, Favre threw a late and ill-advised pass toward wide receiver Sidney Rice(notes) that Tracy Porter(notes) intercepted.

That pass ended what had been a fine game for Favre in all-too-familiar fashion. It was Favre's second pick of the game and the sixth time in his past seven playoff losses that he had thrown at least two interceptions. Overall, Favre has 19 interceptions in those seven losses.

Favre's game, and perhaps his career, shouldn't have ended like that. If the Vikings had simply run the clock down, they could have ended the game with the field-goal attempt. Instead, they got cute.

In games like this, cute doesn't win.

Brutal hits do, as the Saints showed.