FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The broken-down, beat-up, bleeding old man looked half-alive, and that's being nice, as the cart taking him from the field late Sunday night made its way to the locker room.
Nearly curled up in a fetal position, pale white, seemingly out of it, blood gushing from his chin being contained by a towel held by a Vikings staff member, Brett Favre looked like he was playing out his final act.
As the cart made its way through the tunnel here at Gillette Stadium, Favre had a thought race through his mind, one any person coming to the end has to have.
"I thought to myself for a brief second, 'What in the world am I doing?'" Favre said.
Who isn't thinking that?
|Favre is helped off the field after suffering a chin-splitting hit. (US Presswire)|
He played better Sunday than in recent weeks, especially considering he was playing on that ankle. Watching him play, one was hard-pressed to find evidence of a broken ankle. He either had some good drugs or he was high on adrenaline, able to keep his record for consecutive games started alive through sheer will.
You can look at it two ways: He's either junkyard dog tough or he's selfish enough to make sure he plays no matter what, even if it isn't always the best thing for the team. It's probably somewhere in between.
"I think what would keep most guys out obviously hasn't kept me out," Favre said. "Call it dumb. Call it hard-headed. Call it what you want. Maybe all of the above. I love to compete."
The most painful thing was watching him being taken from the field. For a moment, I actually felt sorry for him. I really did. Then I remembered how easily he could have stayed down on the farm in Mississippi, making Wrangler commercials (he had on Ralph Lauren jeans Sunday by the way) and living off of being Brett Favre, gunslinger, rather than Brett Favre, beat-up old man.
The guy you should feel sorry for is backup Tarvaris Jackson. All he did was come off the bench and through a 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback Naufahu Tahi on his first play and then complete a perfect throw to Percy Harvin for a 2-point conversion to make the score 21-18.
New England then drove for the clinching touchdown, ending any chance of a Jackson comeback. That could have been fun. Imagine the outcry if Jackson had rallied the Vikings to victory.
Jackson thought he might be the starter this entire season. He prepared that way all off-season. He took many snaps with the first unit as Favre waited to make a decision on whether to return. It had to burn Jackson when four of his teammates got on a plane and went to Hattiesburg, Miss., to talk Favre into playing, which he obviously did do.
Then it was Jackson who took all the snaps last week as Favre rehabbed his ankle. Favre said he didn't know until pre-game that he would play Sunday. Jackson said he had an idea earlier than that. So did we. There was no way that streak was going to end. It's Favre's baby.
"There's no point in any self pity," Jackson said. "I just have to go out and prepare like I'm going to play and be ready. The worst thing I can do is not to be ready. I'll be ready next week if I get the call."
Want to bet he doesn't? Eight stitches won't keep Favre out if two broken bones didn't.
Favre completed 22 of 32 passes for 259 yards and one interception. The interception was actually a ball that should have been caught by Harvin, although Favre did throw it a little behind him.
All in all, it was a decent day. But lost in those numbers is the fact that Favre led the Vikings to only 10 points when he was on the field. That's not enough production.
Somehow the Vikings (2-5) are not out of it in their division. They still have two games left against the Bears (4-3) and one against Green Bay (5-3), the teams ahead of them.
Asked if he would say the Vikings still have playoff hopes, running back Adrian Peterson said, "Yeah, I will."
I will not. I see a team that isn't playoff good. It's not only Favre. The defense isn't close to being as good as it has been in recent years. Jared Allen is a no-show in 2010. Tom Brady threw for 240 yards and a touchdown against that defense.
It was weird seeing Brady as the "other" quarterback. That's because Favre is a media darling. He sells. Whether it's his off-the-field problems the league is investigating or the constant drama that seems to surround his injury situation all the time, Favre stays big news.
When it was announced on the team's website before the game that he would start, what most thought became official. Of course, that came after a week of uncertainty on the Favre news cycle that dominated 24-hour sports networks and talk radio. Will he or won't he?
When Favre took the field, we watched from the press box to see if he had any problems warming up. He did not. In fact, he showed no problems at all with the ankle. There was no limp. Nothing. Even on bootlegs during the game, he didn't have any problems moving around.
"I have seen him so many times over the years that we have played together come back from something that would keep someone else out and play well," Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell said. "He did that today. He is a guy to rally around. He worked hard during the week. You see a 41-year-old doing that with the resume he has, it is inspirational. Guys rallied around him and he came out and played well."
Then he took the shot to the chin and it all ended. And the drama began. Would he ever play again? Did he have a concussion? Was this it? Is it worth it? Doesn't the tractor look good now?
"He was a pretty good shade of white coming off to the side," coach Brad Childress said.
Favre tried to downplay the hit.
"I don't want to make a big deal out of it," he said. "I remember everything, unfortunately."
Why, why, why did he ever come back?
Favre said it's the competitor in him. But even the toughest competitors, of which he is one, have moments of doubt.
That came as Favre was led away on the cart, a 41-year-old man broken apart in a young man's game.
What in the world am I doing?
We wonder the same, Brett. We really do.