Favre from Over
A blowout win at Lambeau rejuvenated the aging Brett Favre and quieted the whispers that he had lost his magic touch
We expect athletes to have all the answers, assume they know much more about themselves and their sport than what the fans could ascertain on their own. In the case of digesting a complex NFL game plan that notion is true. But more often, athletes are as clueless as the public about what fate has in store for them. The smart ones even admit it.
Like Brett Favre. Last Saturday, 24 hours before the game that would stop Green Bay's slide or send the Packers' season down the drain, the man who's started more consecutive games at quarterback than any other had no idea what his immediate or long-term future held.
"Is the magic over?" Favre said, voicing what every honest member of Packers Nation had been pondering for a month while the team staggered to an 0-4 start. "I think it's human to wonder that right now. I have no idea if we'll win a game this year. I really don't know how we'll play tomorrow, with half our team hurt. But I know I've probably never worked harder in a week to help this team get ready. And I also know one bad game, one bad season, will not define me as a player."
Favre looked almost rookie fresh on Saturday. There were no visible effects from a wrenching 32-29 loss to the Panthers the previous Monday night, which left him so emotionally drained that twice in a 13-minute postgame press conference his voice cracked and he had to pause to keep his emotions in check. Sure, Favre's graying, but on Saturday he was clear-eyed and not the least bit downbeat about the Packers' poor start--the worst since he joined the team in 1992--and his own inconsistent play.
Then on Sunday at Lambeau Field, one day before his 36th birthday, Favre played like he was 26 in a 52-3 victory over the Saints. He connected on 19 of 27 passes for 215 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He misfired on only one significant pass all day--underthrowing a deep post to Donald Driver that would have given him four TD tosses.
More important, Favre showed he could quickly adjust to the young players who had been well down the depth chart when the season began. His three scoring passes were to backup tight ends Donald Lee and David Martin and to preseason No. 3 wideout Robert Ferguson. All are younger than 27, and all have become integral to an offense that is missing Pro Bowl performers at center ( Mike Flanagan), running back ( Ahman Green) and tight end ( Bubba Franks) because of minor injuries; has lost Pro Bowl wideout Javon Walker to a season-ending knee injury; and is still adapting to playing without departed free-agent guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera.
On Sunday the Saints' quarterback, Aaron Brooks, helped Green Bay to an early lead by throwing interceptions on consecutive series, turnovers that the Packers converted into two touchdowns. From there Favre didn't have to take chances. The pass that smacked of vintage Favre was a 25-yard rope to Ferguson in the end zone, with rookie safety Josh Bullocks draped on the receiver's shoulder. "That was the kind of throw only Brett makes," Ferguson said. "I was the only one who could have caught it."
That touchdown upped Green Bay's lead to 28-3 midway through the second quarter and so energized Favre that he ran to Ferguson in the end zone, cradled his 210-pound teammate in his arms and headed for the sideline. Favre went about five yards before letting his wideout down easy. "I guess it was kind of like a honeymoon there for a minute," Ferguson said. Maybe the celebration has only started.