A lasting and painful memory for Favre

NEW ORLEANS -- Brett Favre will never forget Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

His body won't let him.

Favre was pounded like a gavel, twisted like an Auntie Anne's pretzel. The guy got hit so hard and so often Sunday that Superdome officials should have a walking tour of the field.

Here's where Favre's left ankle went right.

Here's where Favre's right thigh took one for the team.

Here's where Favre's left wrist lost a chunk of flesh.

But most of all, here's where the Minnesota Vikings had their postseason crushed.

The New Orleans Saints beat the Vikings in overtime partly because -- no, mostly because -- they beat up Favre. That, and five Vikings turnovers, including one gruesome interception by Favre in the final 15 seconds of regulation.

By game's end, Favre's body color matched his helmet color: purple. He was 40 at kickoff. He was 60 at the final whistle. In between, he was knocked all the way to Kiln, Miss.

"How old are you?" said Favre to ESPN's Ed Werder as reporters formed a loose semicircle around his locker.

"Forty-nine," said Werder. "How old you feel?"

"Something around that," said Favre.

The Saints are going to their first Super Bowl thanks to a merciless defensive game plan designed to inflict pain. Favre was the inflictee.

You should have seen him sitting in front of that locker immediately after the loss. Red welts on his left arm. Blood on his upper right shoulder. A puffy left wrist. A raw gash on the same wrist. A swollen left ankle. A tender right thigh and lower back.

And red eyes.

One by one, Vikings coaches, teammates and staff made a beeline to Favre for handshakes, long hugs, backslaps and, yeah, tears. Were they thanking him or saying goodbye?

"I'd love to win the Super Bowl, who wouldn't?" Favre said later. "But, of course, I can't print anything for you guys, but I know I'm going out on top, one way or the other.

"My goal is to get to Miami. Obviously that's not going to happen. If it is [the last season], then there's no doubt I'm on top."

Favre said it won't take months for him to make his retirement-or-return decision. He first wants to remove himself from the emotion and physical pain of Sunday's defeat. Then he'll discuss the choice with his family.

"It's hard to even think about anything other than the loss," he said.

Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier spent at least five full minutes consoling Favre after the defeat. As Frazier leaned toward him and spoke, Favre dropped his head and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Wide receiver Sidney Rice hugged him for at least 30 seconds.

Guard Anthony Herrera was next. Then running back Adrian Peterson.

"'Preciate you," Favre said to Peterson.

Next came rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin, whose eyes were as misty as Favre's.

If this was the final game of Favre's Hall of Fame career, it ended with him standing near the sideline, helmet on, helpless as Saints kicker Garrett Hartley punched through the game-winning 40-yard field goal in OT. It was an inglorious end to a glorious season and, depending on Favre's decision, a glorious career.

Once again, Favre's final pass in an NFC championship resulted in a costly interception. It happened in the 2007 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants. It happened Sunday against the Saints.

Favre deserves -- and accepted -- the blame for the forced throw intended for Rice on a third-and-15 play from the New Orleans 38. It cost the Vikings a chance at a long field goal and the win. Instead, the game went into overtime.

"I probably should have ran it," said Favre.

You mean, limp it. Favre couldn't run. He could barely walk, the result of a high/low hit that could have been called a penalty, but wasn't.

"Did it look bad?" Favre asked Sports Illustrated's Peter King.

King said it did.

"I thought I broke it," Favre said. "The lights went out. I could hear things crunching … Monday or Tuesday I promise the whole foot will be purple."

Favre's second interception -- his 30th postseason INT -- was a killer. It deprived the Vikings of what would have been a 55-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Longwell. That's no chippie, but the long try would have beat the alternative -- another Vikings turnover.

Blame Favre, if you want, but remember that Bernard Berrian's fourth-quarter fumble of a Favre pass at the Saints' 5 was also a killer. So was Harvin's fourth-quarter fumble at the Minnesota 22. So was a botched handoff exchange between Favre and Peterson at the Saints' 4 near the end of the second quarter. So was an inexplicable 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty the play before Favre's final INT.

In short, there aren't enough fingers to point at all the Vikings who screwed up Sunday. And by the way, the Saints and their crowd had a little something to do with the outcome.

If this was the end for Favre, he has zilch to apologize for. The Vikings wouldn't have reached the NFC Championship Game without him. As it was, he completed 28 of 46 passes for 310 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was the best player on a really good team. At 40.

"I didn't think I had anything to prove coming in," said Favre, "but if there were doubters out there, maybe I served notice to them."

A few minutes later, he left the makeshift stage and walked slowly, very slowly, down a stadium corridor to meet his family. You got the feeling that it might be the last walk down one of these corridors he ever makes.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.