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Heck, why did the server freeze?

Hi all,
early this morning a network card burned out.  A few hours later, the server
was not responding on any network address, nor on the system console.  I had to
power it down.

Upon rebooting, network errors were detected an I arranged the server to work
with the available hardware.  The last line logged was an incoming email from a
spammer in Brazil.  It shouldn't have triggered any severe damage.  I found no
breakdown hint in the logs.

My theory is that the system didn't realize that the card was broken, didn't
turn the interface down, and kept storing outgoing stuff until it blew off.  Is
that reasonable or should I be more paranoid?

TIA for any answer