January 25, 2010
The Saints-Vikings NFC Championship game yesterday, while not exactly a paragon of defense and ball security, was certainly action-packed and dramatic. A lot of postgame analysis and Monday morning quarterbacking is assigning blame for the Vikings’ loss on QB Brett Favre, primarily because of his interception in the final seconds of regulation which deprived the Vikings of a shot at a long (55 yd.) field goal to win. According to this line of argument, Favre’s INT led directly to the Saints’ win in overtime.
This argument oversimplifies matters greatly. Certainly Favre’s INT was a critical error, but it was hardly the only factor leading to the Vikings’ loss. The Vikings also had three fumbles, including two within the Saints’ 10 yard line. Immediately prior to the play, the Vikings had a 5 yard penalty for 12 men in the huddle, which is inexplicable given that the Vikings had called a timeout. Without that penalty, a simple run up the middle for 2 or 3 yards would have left the Vikings with a 47-48 yard field goal attempt; hardly a sure thing (particularly given the rampant postseason kicking woes around the league), but certainly makeable in a dome a decent percentage of the time. Once in overtime, the Vikings’ defense gave up enough yards to allow the winning field goal. So, there was certainly plenty of blame to go around, and maybe just a little credit for the efforts of a pretty talented Saints team.
What gets lost in the argument is the underlying question of whether the Vikings would even have made it to the NFC title game without Favre. Much as it pains me to admit as a Packers fan, Favre’s performance this season is arguably his best ever. Comparing his season stats for this past regular season to his years with the Packers, Favre had:
I’ll be the first to admit Favre is an egotistical diva. But these days, most star athletes fall in the same category. Favre’s repeated retirement/unretirement dance is tiresome, as is the constant sports announcer worshipping of his “gunslinger” approach to the game. But despite all his foibles and flaws, Favre came to play every game; he was the epitome of a competitor. In fact, many of his INTs or bonehead plays came more from trying too hard to win, to manufacture a play on the run, to will a pass to work. That will to do all he could for his team is what made Favre a winner. It’s what made the Packers a winning franchise again, and what won them another Super Bowl title (with a big assist from Reggie White). It’s what changed the Vikings this season from another middle of the pack team to a serious title contender stopped one excruciating play short of the Super Bowl.
So, all you Vikings fans, I understand how it feels to see your postseason dreams crushed by a Favre INT. But, when you signed up for the Favre Express, you knew you were riding a QB who would push the edge to win, usually with solid success, sometimes with spectacular plays, but also occasionally in a flaming disaster. You simply can’t have Brett Favre the winner without Brett Favre the ticking timebomb; without that edge—that will to win—you would only have another QB with a strong arm who could do everything but help his team win.
In other words, you would have Jeff George. And you already know how that experiment turned out.