PHILADELPHIA — It was the kind of mistake a rookie quarterback is expected to make. But not Brett Favre, future Hall of Fame member.
It was a pass so carelessly thrown, so horribly aimed that the Green Bay Packers almost didn't try to explain it.
Just after the Packers had regained momentum Sunday in their NFC playoff game here against the Philadelphia Eagles, just after their defense had stopped the Eagles on the first overtime drive and the roused crowd had shut up, Favre threw one of the most inexplicably bad passes of his career for an interception.
On first and 10 and facing an unexpected blitz, Favre chose to throw deep instead of safely out of bounds. He tried to give Javon Walker, a second-year receiver who had come into his own late in the season, a chance to make a spectacular catch.
Instead, Favre overthrew Walker by a good eight yards and cornerback Brian Dawkins made the interception, then returned it 35 yards to set up the game-winning field goal by David Akers.
Favre left Lincoln Financial Field without talking to reporters, and he kept quiet again Monday.
Coach Mike Sherman didn't blame Favre and neither did any of his teammates.
"Brett had to get rid of the ball really quickly," Sherman said after the Packers' 20-17 overtime loss. "There was a free hitter coming off the side. But it shouldn't have come down to that particular play. Unfortunately, offensively, it did."
Sherman said he could see nothing wrong in the route Walker ran.
"I'll need some time to look at the films," Sherman said. "But what happened just happened because of the blitz. It happens. Brett had immediate pressure put on him. He let it go. The other team caught it."
Walker said he never had a chance at the ball.
"It was a blitz, and Brett threw early. Brett was just trying to make a play, but Dawkins went up and got it. I never could make the correction."
Eagle Coach Andy Reid, though, suggested that some fault might lie with Walker.
"I'm sure Brett read the blitz," Reid said Sunday. "I think Brett thought Walker was going to run a post route. That's where Brett threw it, and Brett's not going to throw it there unless that's what he thinks is happening. He put the ball up and thought his receiver could make the play."
Favre played with a broken right thumb through much of the season and played the last three games burdened by grief after his father, Irvin, died unexpectedly last month.
Sherman said he'd told Favre "how proud I am of him, how he played all year through some tough stuff. I think he continued to build on the legend of Brett Favre."
But this is the second consecutive year that Favre, 34, has left as a loser in the playoffs, too distraught to face questions.
This will be the sixth consecutive year that Favre won't play in the Super Bowl, after having led the Packers to the final game in 1996-97, a 35-21 Green Bay victory over New England, and 1997-98, a 31-24 victory by Denver over the Packers.
Favre and the Packers did not reach the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 playoffs, were blown out by St. Louis in the 2001 NFC division playoff game, and were stunned at home last year by the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card game.
Earlier this year, Favre said he would play at least one more season because he was encouraged by the progress of his team.
And kicker Ryan Longwell, for one, said Favre had nothing to regret about this most recent loss.
"Brett is, in my opinion, the best to ever play this game," Longwell said. "We can't put this loss on him. I don't think there's a man here who would do that."