The Vikings had owned the N.F.C. North for two years, but their all-in strategy to win the this season had collapsed . They have had all kinds of crazy this season — nobody, including the caterers, was immune — but, fittingly, the weirdest moments came Monday in the final home game, which had been forced into an outdoor college stadium to preserve a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the team in Minnesota.
Hours before kickoff came word that , who had been declared out last week with a shoulder sprain that caused both excruciating pain and numbness, had made a startling recovery and was listed as questionable for the game.
The Bears were furious with what they suspected was chicanery with the injury report, but the said the move was allowed. That cleared the way for Favre to make one more night all about him, in a pattern of either single-minded toughness or self-absorption that has produced some of the most thrilling moments in football history. As that pattern has evolved this season, however, it has threatened to overshadow his extraordinary career.
When Favre’s record streak of 297 consecutive regular-season starts came to an end last week, it seemed his career would come to a graceful close, with him on the sideline watching the younger quarterbacks who hope to carry the Vikings into their future. Instead, it was his stumble off a college field, concussed when his head was slammed onto the frozen turf after a sack, that will be remembered as the moment when it all ended. Or should have ended.
Nobody has ruled Favre out for the final two games of the season. Commissioner is expected to decide before the end of the regular season whether to discipline Favre after an N.F.L. investigation into suggestive text messages and graphic photos he is accused of sending to a woman when both were employed by in 2008.
In his postgame news conference, Favre sounded as if he had decided he wanted to play this one last game because it was at home.
“Why I would even consider playing, I have no idea,” Favre said. “I knew it was my last home game.
He added, “And as crazy as it sounds, I was looking forward to playing in a blizzard.
“I think my stubbornness, hardheadedness and stupidity is what has allowed me to play for 20 years.”
Favre has hijacked games before, often with dazzling results. At 41, with his body breaking down, it was a stretch to think he could create another moment to burnish his legend.
This was an alternate universe of the Vikings’ creation. Leslie Frazier is coaching to have his interim tag removed, but, like many other coaches, he did not say no to Favre, who had not taken a practice snap in two weeks. Frazier said Favre told him he wanted the fans to see him play again.
Favre has insisted he will retire after this season, and maybe he means it this time. And the Vikings will begin a long, probably painful rebuilding process. Both went all-in and the bottom dropped out.
There are worse ways for seasons and careers to end. The Vikings need look only to the way the quit on Wade Phillips to find solace in the fact that at least they never stopped playing. For that, Favre deserves substantial credit.
The Vikings will go on next season, probably devoid of the drama and sizzle that Favre brought them, and almost certainly without the success he instilled in 2009. And Favre will go home to discover, again, what life after football is like.
“Is there?” he said late Monday night. “I don’t know exactly what that means.”