28-28. A short Adrian Peterson run tied the NFC Championship Game with 5:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. After a New Orleans drive went three-and-out, the Vikings were getting the ball back with 2:47 left to play. Brett Favre crouches down under center, with a chance to yet again lead his team to a game winning drive – and the Super Bowl.
Favre is not new to this situation. In fact, he’s led 45 game-winning drives in his 20-year NFL career, fifth most all time. Minnesota runs only one play before the two minute warning – an Adrian Peterson run gains no yards. Peterson gains two on a draw. New Orleans calls timeout. On third and eight, under heavy pressure, Favre hits Bernard Berrian on a curl for the first down. On the next play, taking the snap from shotgun, Favre hits Sidney Rice up the seam, zipping the ball beautifully into a nearly nonexistent window.
Remembering Brett Favre: The Best Dumb Quarterback of All Time
Statistically, Favre was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He completed the most passes in NFL history (6,300). Favre ranks behind only Peyton Manning in both career passing yards (71,838) and passing touchdowns (508). Additionally, he led 30 career fourth quarter comebacks. Favre is a Hall of Famer, an 11-time Pro Bowler, and the only player to win back-to-back-to-back MVP awards. However, the most shocking statistic for Favre – he threw 337 interceptions, 59 more than George Blanda‘s second place finish. Favre is the ultimate quarterback enigma.
The ball now rests at the New Orleans 47-yard line with 1:15 to play. Chester Taylor takes the ball between the tackle for a first down and more, putting the Vikings in field goal range. Sean Peyton uses his final timeout with 1:06 to play. After consecutive runs go nowhere, the Vikings use a timeout with 19 seconds to go. Inexplicably, out of a timeout, the Vikings get called for a too many men in the huddle penalty, pushing the field goal to what would be a 56-yarder. What happens next is one of the defining plays of Favre’s career.
Favre takes the snap. Sensing ghosts in the pocket, he rolls out to his right. Outside the numbers, still moving to his right, Favre unleashes the ball in the direction of Rice. Tracy Porter jumps in front of Rice and intercepts the ball. Inexplicably, Favre had committed the cardinal sin of quarterbacking – throwing across his body back to the center of the field.
This was the mystery that was Brett Favre. He’s unarguably one of the most gifted quarterbacks in NFL history. However, his decision-making was always questionable at best. The rocket launcher that attached to his right shoulder led Favre to believe he could make ANY throw. At times, he wowed us. Other times, he hurt his team and left millions of fans with gaping mouths and their hands on their head.
Strikingly, in a recent Pro Football Talk article, Favre admits he went into his third NFL season without even knowing the difference between nickel, dime, and base defenses. “I’d always be sitting there going, ‘I hear this ‘nickel defense’ all the time but I’m not real sure what it is,'” Favre described. “Dime, what the hell is dime?” It’s remarkable how he got that far in his career before figuring out these things. Comparatively to quarterbacks in today’s NFL, this is remarkable. It’s as if Favre shows up to a meeting wearing a Hawaiian shirt with no notepad, no pens, and a Bud Light, and Peyton Manning is sitting across the table in a three-piece suit and a novel’s worth of notes.
Following the interception, the Saints would go on to win that NFC Championship game in overtime, en route to a Super Bowl victory. This was the last meaningful game in Favre’s career. Favre was exhilarating. Similarly to 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson or Michael Vick in his Atlanta prime, Favre was one of those players that no one would go to the bathroom or grab another beer when the ball was in his hands. He was the textbook gunslinger, in a world where the phrase is thrown around way too loosely. Arguably, Favre is the most fun quarterback to watch of all time. He could win you a game on any throw. He could lose you the same game just as often.