Brett Favre was exhausted and disheartened. He had just thrown an interception to close out regulation in the 2009 NFC Championship Game. After one of the best performances of his career, he felt a magical season ending.
This is the story of one of the greatest games in recent NFL history. And it's told beautifully, from the perspective of Favre's Minnesota Vikings backup, Sage Rosenfels, in a fantastic piece for TheMMQB.com. I'm going to post my favorite passage below, but the entire piece is highly recommended.
"I sat on the Gatorade coolers on our sideline, and Brett limped over to sit next to me. I didn't know what to say to him; I could feel the weight of the world on his shoulders," Rosenfels wrote. "I could tell he felt the interception cost us the game and season. I could also sense that he envisioned the story of that year -- at 40 years old, he was having his best season -- was going to be summed up by that one play. A play that never really should have happened in the first place. He had played almost flawless football, fighting like it was life or death to him, and this is the way it was going to end. We sat there for a few moments in silence.
"The referees and team captains went out for the coin toss to start overtime, and I got up to see who won possession. Brett didn't even bother. He didn't have the energy, and I think he was still in shock from the interception. After the Saints won the toss, I walked back over and sat next to him. He turned to me and said, 'I choked.'
"I paused for a second and said, 'Brett, you are the most amazing football player I've ever seen. It has been an unreal experience to watch you play this year.' I can't really describe the look he gave me, but I can tell those words meant something to him."
Rosenfels wrote that the "raw physical brutality" in the game was unprecedented, but he didn't mean it in a negative way.
"In all my experiences in professional football, it best encompasses the true soul of what the NFL is," Rosenefels wrote.
It's a game that is remembered largely for Favre's interception and the eventual bounty allegations against the New Orleans Saints, which is too bad. I remember it as a classic back-and-forth battle between two organizations desperate to get to the Super Bowl.
And I remember it as one the best performances of Favre's career, despite that last throw.