From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, February 3, 1997
AFTER A WEEK OF MEDIA COVERAGE DOMINATED BY SPECULATION about the future of New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells, Super Bowl XXXI was decided by the men who played it. MVP Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return was the defining moment in the Packers' 35-21 victory, which gave the storied Green Bay franchise its first NFL title in 29 years, but Brett Favre was a big part of the story too.
Favre's Super Bowl week was a sideshow second only to Parcells's. First, the quarterback had his life's history dissected by a wave of reporters who visited his hometown of Kiln, Miss. Then a story broke that Favre, who spent more than six weeks in a rehab facility the previous spring for addiction to a painkiller, would no longer be tested by the NFL for alcohol as part of his aftercare program. With Bourbon Street beckoning, this was big news—until the report turned out to be false.
The irony was that the flu-stricken Favre could barely handle chicken soup; he spent Thursday night in his hotel room, shivering with a 101� temperature. "I was worried," he admitted later. "I'd waited my whole life to play in this game, and now I wasn't going to be healthy. But the night before the game, I slept great, and I felt pretty good when I woke up."
Favre was clearheaded enough to burn New England for two touchdowns after making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. On the first he detected the Patriots, with both safeties up at the line, were about to come with an all-out blitz. So Favre changed the play from a safe quick-out to tight end Mark Chmura to a deep post route by Andre Rison. The wideout was open by about five yards when he caught Favre's pass at the 20 and duckwalked into the end zone.
After New England had taken a 14-10 lead, Favre put Green Bay ahead for good with another astute call. Less than one minute into the second quarter, he saw the Patriots' defensive backs line up in single coverage against a three-wideout set, with strong safety Lawyer Milloy on Antonio Freeman, the slot receiver. Sensing another blitz, Favre changed the blocking scheme and then found Freeman down the right sideline. Freeman easily outran the Patriots defenders for an 81-yard score.
During the Packers' raucous victory party, Favre sought temporary refuge in a nearby stairwell. There he reflected on his tumultuous off-season, which included the death of his best friend, Mark Haverty, in a car accident in which Brett's brother Scott was driving.
"Through everything," Brett said, "I really believed I'd be here today." He laughed and continued, "Right here in this stairwell, talking about being world champions. Trouble never seems to be far away, and the future won't be all rosy, but they can't take this away from me."