The hue and cry went out far and wide from the loudest of the loudest voices in the sports talk business following the Vikings' loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game. "Favre's decision cost the Vikings the game," they cried. "No way Manning does the same, not when its for all the marbles."
More cliches and loud pontificating ensued. Then the Super Bowl was played.
Not only did the Saints--a team the Vikings ran up and down the field against--show, they beat the favored Indianapolis Colts by two touchdowns. And they did so on the strength of a late-game pick of a cross-body pass by Peyton Manning. It was not as far back across the body as had been Brett Favre's two weeks ago, but it was back across the body, to a blind spot, and it was picked.
For Manning and the Colts, the late fourth-quarter pick was far more immediately damaging than was Favre's intercepted pass against the Saints. Favre's pick merely sent the game to overtime. Manning's pick resulted in a Saints' defensive touchdown and sealed the game in regulation.
While Colts' fans, with prior Super Bowl victory in hand, will gain little sympathy around the NFL for their team's late-game miscues and defeat, Vikings' fans likely will receive additional sympathy along with an unexpected boost to next year's fortunes.
On Sunday, the Saints demonstrated that they were the better team. They also added fuel to the notion among Vikings' fans that the Vikings were the best team in the NFL this past season. That, alone, would provide Favre with motivation to return next season.
How the Saints beat the Colts should also embolden Favre. While, two weeks ago, Favre likely had doubts about his decision-making with a championship in reach, he now has re-affirmation of the fact that bad picks happen to the best of quarterbacks at the worst of times. In light of Manning's pick, Favre can take solace in the fact that momentary indiscretion, not age or fading ability, was responsible for that pick against the Saints.
Buoyed by Manning's error to view his own similar error in a different light, and encouraged by the return of the core of this year's offense, Favre might well decide to return to Minnesota in 2010 and take a run at a field that probably is not going to change all that much except at the margins.
In an off-season already filled with uncertainty about the return to play of E.J. Henderson and Cedric Griffin and Chester Taylor's status as a member of the team, the Colts' loss via a Manning interception thus offers one unexpected ray of hope for the Vikings and their fans in 2010.