Favre’s surprise return cut short
QB makes start, but Bears knock him out
MINNEAPOLIS — Brett Favre was bundled up in a heavy gray coat by the time Devin Hester sped through the snow with his record-setting return.
Favre’s surprise start last night ended with another injury, perhaps putting him out for good, and the game ended with an NFC North title for the Chicago Bears.
“I knew it was the last home game,’’ Favre said. “This also may seem kind of crazy, but I was looking forward to playing in a blizzard.’’
Hester set an NFL record with his 14th kick return touchdown, running back a punt 64 yards for a score shortly after halftime to help the Bears fly past the Minnesota Vikings, 40-14, at frosty TCF Bank Stadium.
Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes for the Bears (10-4), who last won their division during their 2006 Super Bowl season. Hester caught one of those scoring tosses and also took back the second-half kickoff 79 yards to set up a field goal a few minutes before his punt return made it 27-7.
Hester’s 14th career return for a touchdown, kickoff or punt, broke a tie with Brian Mitchell.
Favre finished 5 of 7 for 63 yards, and the Vikings (5-9) fell apart in front of their proud alumni in town for the franchise’s 50th-anniversary celebration featuring all kinds of blasts from the past.
With the Metrodome unusable because of a roof collapse, the game got moved to the University of Minnesota. TCF Bank was about 80 percent full, with snowballs flying from the seats — sometimes hitting players — and plenty of frolicking in the flakes.
Favre wasn’t even supposed to play. His sprained throwing shoulder hurt too much for him to practice this week, and his NFL-record starts streak of 297 regular-season games was already over after sitting out the previous week.
But after feeling better when he woke up yesterday, according to the Vikings, Favre wanted to try. He passed his pregame throwing test and trotted out in front of the Minnesota fans one last time, finding Percy Harvin for a 23-yard TD to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
Henry Melton tipped Favre’s pass on Minnesota’s next possession, Julius Peppers intercepted it at the 14, and Robbie Gould kicked a field goal.
In the second quarter, on third and 4 from the Bears’ 48, Corey Wootton got in the backfield and grabbed Favre by his non-throwing shoulder, slamming him toward the cold turf. Favre landed on his left shoulder and his helmet smacked the ground.
The Vikings said Favre had a head injury and wouldn’t return. Rookie Joe Webb took over, scoring on a 13-yard scramble to the edge of the end zone to cut the lead to 27-14, but the Bears had their way after putting perhaps the final seal on Favre’s career.