He arrived in Minnesota like a movie star -- fashionably late, borne by charter plane and chauffeured Escalade, tracked by helicopter and paparazzi. He finished his first regular season in Minnesota on Sunday having made the Vikings his star vehicle, shredding the aimless New York Giants in the regular-season finale as if they were so many dandelions beneath the rotors of the riding mower he keeps on his ranch in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The 40-year-old version of Brett Favre led a 44-7 whipping of the Giants on Sunday at the Metrodome, passing for 316 yards and four touchdowns. When the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings' 12-4 record elevated them to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and earned them a bye this weekend and a home game the following weekend.

The 2009 season began amid questions about Favre's age, durability and reputation for recklessness; it ended with the Vikings posting their best regular-season record since 1998, and Favre jogging off the field in possession of his health and the best passer rating of what had already been a record-setting career.

By the time he reached the locker room, Favre knew that his regular-season accomplishments -- including a rating of 107.2, a career-low interception percentage of 1.3, 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns -- will sour faster than eggnog if he can't deliver the Vikings' first playoff victory since 2004.

The Vikings didn't lure Favre out of retirement to carry them to the playoffs. They made it this far last year, before quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw a killing interception against the Eagles in the Metrodome in a first-round loss.

Coach Brad Childress drove his Escalade to the airport in mid-August because he wanted a quarterback capable of delivering playoff victories, and Favre knows it.

"I'm not going to lie to you," Favre said. "The only reason I came back was to get to Miami. And I'm talking about the second game.''

The first NFL game scheduled this winter for Miami is the Pro Bowl, which Favre regularly qualifies for but rarely participates in. The second is the Super Bowl, which Favre, for all of his records, hasn't played in since the 1997 season.

"I know it goes hand-in-hand with how I play -- how we'll play,'' he said. "I go back to what [former Packers coach] Mike Holmgren told me a long time ago. He said, 'If you play well, we have a good chance to win. If you don't play well, more than likely we don't win.' ... I was willing to accept that challenge.''

The Vikings had lost three of four games, but all three losses occurred on the road. Sunday's victory gave the Vikings an 8-0 record at home. In road games, Favre threw 12 touchdown passes and five interceptions. In the Metrodome, he threw 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

At halftime of the Vikings' game on Monday Night Football in Chicago, Favre had thrown for 36 yards. Since that point, in the equivalent of five quarters, he has completed 46-of-62 passes for 601 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions, erasing comparisons to the way he finished the 2008 season with the Jets, as his arm deteriorated and his team flopped.

Asked whether he required a playoff victory to validate his return to the NFL, Favre said, "I've thought about that throughout the whole process of the comeback, what would be acceptable versus not acceptable. I have to be cautious saying 'Anything less than the Super Bowl,' although that's my main goal and my only goal.

"But I can't beat myself up. I can only do what I can do, and hope that that's good enough. And I'm very pleased with where we are right now. If we can win more, it sure would make it a lot sweeter.''

Favre was conducting one of his long-winded press conferences in a room near the Vikings' lockerroom, where defensive end Jared Allen had just said, "To me, going 12-4 and not winning a playoff game would not be successful. I think we need to make some noise in the playoffs.''

On the podium, Favre was joking about his "speed," as his young nephew, Max Favre, wearing a Favre Vikings jersey, stood alongside.

Max ate a hot dog. Brett talked. Max took a knee. Brett talked. Max accepted some gum. Brett talked. Max's eyelids drooped and he slumped to the ground. Brett talked. Max learned to shave and chose a college. Brett talked.

Favre is narrator as well as star; he's just not sure whether The 40-Year-Old Version will be able to author a finale worthy of this plot.

Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday, and 6:40 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com