GAME 14: Brian Urlacher looks down as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre lays on the ground after being hit during the first half. Favre left the game. The Bears routed the Vikings 40-14. | AP
Updated: December 26, 2010 4:41PM
MINNEAPOLIS — It was better this way. Much, much better.
The Bears have had to answer those of us who believe they’ve been lucky this season. Winning the NFC North title Monday night by defeating another third-string quarterback, a Vikings rookie named Joe Webb, only would have added to that impression. Throw in the fact the Vikings would be playing without Adrian Peterson, and the door was open for more emphasis on the Bears’ season-long good fortune.
So seeing Brett Favre jog onto the field should have put smiles on the Bears’ faces. It made their 40-14 victory that much more satisfying and that much more meaningful.
They won a division title by knocking Favre out of the game and ignoring all the pregame focus on the conditions at the University of Minnesota’s field.
The Bears didn’t care who played quarterback for the Vikings, as long as it wasn’t Tom Brady. On a cold, snowy night, they came up with big plays over and over again. In the first quarter, a tipped Favre pass led to a Julius Peppers interception, which led to a Robbie Gould field goal. Jay Cutler hit Johnny Knox with a perfect pass on a 67-yard touchdown play later in the quarter.
Devin Hester returned the second-half kickoff 79 yards, leading to another Gould field goal. Hester returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown, giving him 14 punt or kickoff returns for scores, an NFL record.
And so on.
Conditions didn’t matter
The Bears simply weren’t going to be denied the North title. They didn’t seem to care about the condition of the icy field. They didn’t seem to care about the cold. They didn’t care about anything except pushing their record to 10-4.
They didn’t even care that Favre, who had been ruled out with a shoulder injury Saturday, woke up Monday determined to play. Even considering Favre’s yearly retirement/unretirement tease, this was surprising, but shouldn’t we have been ready for the possibility?
Why didn’t any of us think to say, “Gee, I wonder if Brett’s camera-lust might lead him to pull a fast one’’?
We should have known that the best way for Minnesota to mend Favre’s shoulder was not to hire a faith healer but to tell him that the game had turned into a huge national story.
Monday night game. Controversy over the NFL’s decision to play the game on an unheated field. Millions of Americans tuning in to watch the potential carnage on the rock-hard surface.
What about any of that says, “Brett isn’t going to play”? None of it.
No return this time
On Monday afternoon, the Bears found out Favre had been upgraded to questionable. In the NFL, this is like being upgraded from dead to alive. There’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t do the Lazarus thing on the day of the game, but it’s considered definitive when a player is declared out.
“The current status of an individual is based on the medical reports,’’ NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said before the game. “As I understand, he wasn’t capable of playing two days ago. He has made tremendous progress physically.’’
A miracle, is what it was.
It was a miracle with a short shelf life.
Bears defensive end Corey Wootton sacked Favre in the second quarter, throwing the quarterback on his head and quite possibly into an alternate universe. Did the hard field play a role in that? The force with which Wootton spun Favre to the ground would have caused a head injury on a surface made of foam.
Not long after the hit, a press-box announcement stated that Favre had a head injury and his return was doubtful.
Who would be silly enough to believe that? Believing Favre when he says he’s injured is like believing Larry King when he says he’s happily married. What, are we idiots?
Favre didn’t come back. Stunning.
Should the Bears have been upset about his sudden good health Monday afternoon? Nah. The way Favre has played this season, it didn’t look like a huge competitive edge for the Vikings. Even when opponents know he’s playing, there’s no way to prepare for him anyway. Never has been. He’s going to try crazy passes that nobody else throws. Some are going to land in the hands of his receivers. A few are going to end in the hands of the opponent.
Favre, Webb . . . whatever
Critics will say Favre’s last-minute resurrection leaves open the possibility of future shenanigans with NFL injury reports. That possibility has always been there. Favre going from out to playing shouldn’t be an epiphany for sneaky coaches.
And so we moved on to the next Vikings quarterback. I don’t know Joe Webb. I know that Jack Webb played Joe Friday on “Dragnet.’’ Maybe Joe Webb is some sort of weird amalgam of that.
Didn’t much matter.
A spectator walked out onto the field in the second quarter while a play was going on. Just wandered in as if it was the most natural thing in the world for someone to be getting a field-level view of the proceedings. His pants fell down as security officials led him away.
Pants on the ground.
All night, I kept waiting for Favre to run back onto the field. Not that it would have mattered.