From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, January 15, 1996
THESE PACKERS MAY NOT EVOKE MEMORIES OF VINCE Lombardi's roughneck teams that dominated the 1960s, but they do have some old-style machismo in their gait. That's instilled by the leadership of 34-year-old defensive end Reggie White, a spiritual man nearing the end of an arduous quest for an NFL championship, and 26-year-old quarterback Brett Favre, a Mississippi country boy whose raunchy wit and unflappable grit have spiced up the Pack and its West Coast offense.
Despite playing with a torn left hamstring against the reigning Super Bowl—champion San Francisco 49ers in this NFC divisional playoff game, White soared over many chop blocks while applying relentless pressure on 49ers quarterback Steve Young. Favre, who this season succeeded Young as the league MVP, came through with what he acknowledged was the best game of his five-year NFL career, completing 21 of 28 passes en route to a 299-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception day as the Packers beat the heavily favored 49ers in every phase of the game to win 27-17.
Though it ended with a blocked field goal, Green Bay's first possession of the game set the tone. The Packers used up seven minutes to march 48 yards, and Favre dispelled one giant misconception along the way. While watching the Packers' quarterback warm up before the game, some 49ers noticed that his passes were fluttering and took it as a sign that he was nervous. Yeah, and Dick Clark got stage fright before American Bandstand tapings. "Why be nervous?" Favre asked later. "If we lose, every one expects it. If we win, we're kings. We came to play. By the middle of the game, I was checking out cheerleaders while I was in the huddle."
Favre completed 15 of his first 16 passes. In executing the game plan to near perfection, he picked apart the middle of the 49ers' zone, connecting with backup tight end Keith Jackson four times for 101 yards and a touchdown, including one outrageous 28-yard completion: Late in the third quarter Favre slipped while rolling out of the pocket and still zinged a perfect pass as he was regaining his balance.
Known as much for his bathroom humor as for his passing prowess, Favre possesses a small-town, no-frills genuineness and a keen prankster's bent. On the Wednesday before the game Favre's main target, Robert Brooks, was sitting in a toilet stall when Favre heaved a cup of ice water over the top, dousing the receiver. Later that day Favre raided the locker of backup quarterback Jim McMahon and placed hot wax in McMahon's underwear.
But after the game the man who had the last chuckle was Packers coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren smiled broadly. "I don't make guarantees," he said, "but if we play like this, I like our chances."