Patriots' linebacker Tully Banta-Cain broke through the pass-blocking protection, had Favre wrapped up low and was bringing the Packer quarterback down when fellow linebacker Tedy Bruschi hit Favre and forced him down hard on his right arm and throwing shoulder. Favre recoiled in pain immediately, clutching his wrist and his elbow.
"He took a shot on the elbow," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "He was unable to gain any strength in his hand as far as holding the football and controlling the football. As far as the future and how bad it is, I'd just be speculating but he was unable to gain strength in his hand to hold the football."
McCarthy added that he believed it amounted to a nerve problem, a hit to the ‘funny bone' nerve. "When we came out of the locker room he was trying to gain strength. As we went through the third quarter, I didn't get a series-by-series update."
There certainly was nothing funny about the situation. Even before the hit, Favre was having a miserable afternoon, completing only 5 of 15 passes for 73 yards. He consistently overthrew his receivers, several times when they were virtually wide open. Favre's quarterback rating was a paltry 50.1.
This was the sixth time in Favre's career that he's had to leave a game due to injury and did not return. The others were: Oct. 20, 1994 at Minnesota; Nov. 5, 1995 at Minnesota; Nov. 12, 2000 at Tampa Bay; Oct. 20, 2002 vs. Washington at Lambeau Field; Oct. 3, 2004 vs. New York Giants at Lambeau Field.
Waiting in the wings was Aaron Rodgers – Favre's heir apparent - but he didn't fare any better against the tough, inspired Patriots defense.
"I think I put him (Rodgers) in a tough situation, trying to get out there and throw the ball every time," McCarthy said of Rodgers who completed just 4 of 12 passes for 32 yards. "He made some plays with his feet and I think you could see his athletic ability. It was a great test for his preparation. Without seeing the film, I thought he was okay."
To add insult to injury, Rodgers and Favre were sacked four times between them. Neither spoke with reporters after the game. Rodgers was seen hobbling into the trainers' room, but the Packers made no announcement about his health or playing status.
Seeing Favre go down to injury hushed the crowd, but it also had an impact on his teammates watching from the sidelines.
"Well, obviously he's the guy that's been the poster boy for this whole organization," said linebacker Brady Poppinga. "Many of us were little kids when he was winning the Super Bowl and the MVPs. We look up to him and to see him go down like that sucks. It's not a good thing but you've got to continue to play. I don't know what's going to happen to him but he's made of iron, man. Who knows? He could be ready to go on Tuesday but I was disappointed to see him go down."
Fullback William Henderson, the last of Favre's teammates from the Super Bowl championship team, was also reflective in the locker room after the game.
"What went through my mind was that I'm hoping that it isn't so serious and that he can come back and play," said Henderson. "But at the same time, we're always prepared. We make substitutions in practice and we do things every week so that if someone goes down, if Brett goes down, someone will step up and make a play. Unfortunately today, as a total offense, we didn't come to play as far as being competent and consistent with making plays."
Favre's regular season streak of consecutive NFL starts now stands at 231 games (251 including playoffs). Whether he'll be able to answer the bell next week and extend it to 232 games remains to be seen.
Asked how Favre's injury will affect the team, wide receiver Donald Driver said, "I don't think it affects us much," said Driver. "We know Aaron Rodgers can step in and take care of business and he did. He played well, but we tip our hats to what they did defensively. They played well. It does concern us a little bit that he (Favre) didn't come back in. Not to see him back in was a big surprise so we knew it must have been serious. We'll see what happens, but nobody really knows right now."