Well, Brett Favre failed in his first attempt to bring the Vikings to the Super Bowl, when the team -- while completely outplaying the Saints -- lost on an overtime field goal 31-28 on Sunday night in New Orleans.

It wasn't Favre's fault that the Vikings lost, although he was involved in a key interception that cost them a chance at a winning field-goal attempt at the end of regulation.

Three lost fumbles and an earlier Favre interception didn't help the Vikings' cause.

Although Favre might be through with football -- it would be hard to blame him after he took a good beating from the Saints -- he has indicated that he is very happy here and now that he failed to get the prize he was looking for, with the right persuasion he still might come back for another year.

He is signed for next season for $13 million, and there is little doubt that the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, would be willing to sweeten the pot to bring him back, because without him, when the 2010 season starts the Vikings again would be looking for a quarterback. I wouldn't be surprised if a member of the Wilf family has already talked to Favre about the future.

Favre was largely responsible for the 13-5 season, a season the Vikings don't have to be ashamed of by any stretch of the imagination.

He was like a coach on the field, and he can take a lot credit for the development of young football players such as Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and others.

For Favre's sake, it is unfortunate that with all of the great things he did both during the season and in the playoffs, the interception at the end of regulation will haunt him for some time.

Yes, Favre won't attend the offseason workouts and won't attend the minicamps, just like last season. But if the owners of the team want to win and maybe go further than they even did this year, they need to bring Favre back, even though he will turn 41 years old during the season.

During this season I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in his company and I'm convinced under the right circumstances he would come back.

The one person who might stop him from playing any more might be his wife. Included in Fox's telecast were several shots of Deanna Favre covering her face when her husband went down. It must be pretty tough to see somebody you love take a beating like Favre took on Sunday night.

Outside of Favre, the Vikings are in good shape rosterwise, with running back Chester Taylor the only unrestricted free agent of any magnitude who might be lost. The other unrestricted free agents are Benny Sapp, Jimmy Kennedy, Artis Hicks and Greg Lewis.

Grant was there

Legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant, who was at the game as a guest of the Wilfs as an honorary captain, said, "You can't coach turnovers and you can't prepare for them," indicating that's what beat the Vikings on Sunday.

"The Vikings kicking game could have been a little better with New Orleans having success returning kicks and punts," Grant said after the game.

Grant described Favre as the closest thing to former Vikings player Jim Marshall, who set a number of records for longevity in the NFL and never missed a game because of injuries.

"Favre got a lot of hits but kept bouncing back, just like Marshall," Grant said.

Stat battle won

If it wasn't for the turnovers, the Vikings might have won this game with ease.

The stats were completely one-sided.

The Vikings had 475 yards total to 257 by the winners. They had 310 passing yards to the Saints' 189 and 165 rushing to the Saints' 68. But the Vikings still lost the game because of the all of the mistakes they made, from the turnovers to the two overtime penalties that helped put Garrett Hartley in position to kick the winning 40-yard field goal.

As for Favre, he went toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and had his moments, despite having to have his ankle retaped when he got hit both high and low at the same time. To the average spectator watching the game on television, it seemed like the Saints should have gotten several more roughing-the-passer penalties than the one they received.

When you look back, the turnovers will be what you remember about why the Vikings aren't going to the Super Bowl. They missed a chance to score at the end of the first half when Favre and Adrian Peterson botched a handoff, and Harvin's fourth-quarter fumble resulted in New Orleans' go-ahead touchdown.

Won last time

The Vikings were more fortunate the last time they played at the Superdome in the playoffs. That Vikings team went 8-7 and barely got into the playoffs. But in the wild-card game at New Orleans, the Vikings beat the Saints 44-10, even though the Saints were 12-3 and had the second-best record in the NFL to San Francisco, their NFC West division rival.

The Vikings went on to beat the 49ers in the second round but lost the NFC Championship Game at Washington, and the Redskins went on to beat Denver in the Super Bowl.

Scott Studwell, Vikings director of college scouting, was a linebacker on that team, which came just as close to a Super Bowl as the present team.

In that 1987 season, the season was cut to 15 games because of a players' strike, and three of the games were played by replacement players. The Vikings' replacements didn't help them any, going 0-3.

"Well, it was a lot like [Sunday's] game from the standpoint of the crowd noise," recalled Studwell. "They got out on top of us early, and that's when Anthony Carter had his great day and we kind of took the crowd out of the game and kind of ran away with it in the second half."

Carter returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown, starting a scoring run that had the Vikings put up 31 points by halftime. The half was going to end at 24-10, but on the final play of the half, the Saints were called for 12 men on the field -- a penalty that cost the Vikings late in regulation Sunday.

After that Saints penalty in January 1988, Hassan Jones capped the half by catching a 44-yard Hail Mary pass from Wade Wilson.

The Vikings ended up outgaining the Saints 417 yards to 149, with 28 first downs to New Orleans' 9. Carter had 222 all-purpose yards.

"Carter certainly was the big playmaker that day," Studwell recalled. "... He kind of took over the game offensively."

Won't forget Brees

One person who won't forget Brees is Glen Mason, whose Gophers lost three in a row to Purdue and Brees by scores of 56-21, 33-28 and 38-24.

Mason described Brees as the best quarterback he faced during his college coaching year and said that if Brees had played for a winning team like Ohio State, he would have won the Heisman Trophy.

"Well, you know when we played Drew Brees, he was the darnedest thing that I'd ever seen," Mason said. "He was the best quarterback. The things that he did, and obviously he had great success against us, but his accuracy in passing was phenomenal. If you tried to play coverage we couldn't get pressure on him, so he picked you apart. If you tried to blitz him he picks you apart, and his decision-making was unbelievable."

He added: "... One year -- this is kind of funny -- but I was The Sporting News national coach of the year and he was receiving an award, and we were in Detroit at the banquet together, and he came over and sat down and we started talking and he said, 'What do you think, Coach?' And I said, 'Drew, I think you ought to leave Purdue early and go to the National Football League.' And he just laughed, you know. But, everybody, he used to get the calls from the pro scouts, you think because he's not 6 feet tall."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com