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Forty And Flingin'
October 26, 2009
In his 19th NFL season Brett Favre is turning a new team on with a strong arm and his timeless magic. Will it last?
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October 26, 2009

Forty And Flingin'

In his 19th NFL season Brett Favre is turning a new team on with a strong arm and his timeless magic. Will it last?

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Brad Childress's office at the Metrodome conveys all the charm of the sterile, antiquated stadium itself. The windowless, dimly lit room is barely large enough to hold a desk and two chairs. The beige concrete walls are cold and unadorned, save for a small television screen that on Sunday was tuned to the in-house feed of player interviews following the Vikings' heart-pounding 33--31 victory over the Ravens in Minneapolis. ¶ Childress had yet to change out of the black-and-purple outfit he'd worn on the sideline. He leaned back in his chair and watched quarterback Brett Favre's press conference intently. After a few minutes the 53-year-old Vikings coach reached for the remote hidden beneath some papers and pressed the mute button.

"We've come a long way," Childress said, referring to his team and in particular to Favre, the 19-year veteran who in August came out of retirement for the second time in as many years—this time to serious questions from the national media about his potential effectiveness. "From game manager, to not sure he can still throw the deep ball, to he's just going to throw the check-down." Childress paused, then added, "I think we're past all that s--- now."

There could be no doubt after Sunday, when Favre, who had turned 40 a week earlier, showed yet again how much life is left in his arm and how much magic to his touch. Three weeks after leading Minnesota on an 80-yard drive that culminated with a 32-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left to beat San Francisco, Favre drove his team 66 yards in six plays to set up the decisive field goal with 2:00 to go against the visiting Ravens, whose upset bid ended on the final play when Steven Hauschka's 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired.

Favre completed 21 of 29 passes for 278 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Vikings improved to 6--0 for the first time since 2003. Notably, it's also the first time in Favre's NFL career, including his 16 years in Green Bay, that he's been 6--0. He's there thanks to the kind of throw many observers believed he would no longer be able to make, not six months removed from surgery to repair a torn right biceps that had ruined the last half of his 2008 season with the Jets: the deep strike.

Baltimore had just erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and taken a 31--30 lead on Ray Rice's 33-yard touchdown run with 3:37 left when the Vikings started on their own 20. On second-and-six Favre play-actioned to his left, bootlegged right, then released a missile that traveled 60 yards in the air. Third-year wideout Sidney Rice, who'd beaten one-on-one coverage from cornerback Frank Walker, grabbed the ball in stride for a 58-yard gain. Four plays later Ryan Longwell kicked a 31-yard field goal that would prove to be the game-winner.

Afterward, in the silence of his spartan office, Childress contemplated that pass and was incredulous that anyone would have doubted Favre's ability. "Does he still have it?" Childress said. "Uh-huh. That last throw came from the bottom of his toes."

It seemed a little over the top in August when Childress drove his black Cadillac Escalade onto a private airfield in St. Paul to personally pick up Favre. Just a few weeks earlier the three-time league MVP and 10-time Pro Bowl selection had told Childress he was done playing; then the silver-haired QB suddenly decided he wanted to suit up for another year after all. Given how quarterback-poor the Vikings were, perhaps it's more of a surprise that Childress didn't fly to Hattiesburg, Miss., handcuff Favre and drag him to Minneapolis.

Not only has Favre performed exceptionally well through the first six games—69.7% completion rate, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions—but he's also doing it at a time when so many quarterbacks around the league are struggling. Sunday's results highlighted the vast gulf between the best and the worst at the game's most critical position this season.

• In New England's 59--0 thrashing of Tennessee, Tom Brady set an NFL record with five touchdown passes in a single quarter during a 29-of-34, 380-yard tour de force. New Orleans's Drew Brees faced off against the Giants' No. 1--ranked defense and completed 23 of 30 for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a 48--27 victory. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 417 yards, second most in his career, in the Steelers' 27--14 victory over the Browns. Meanwhile, Indianapolis's Peyton Manning was enjoying a bye—and sitting on an AFC-best 114.1 passer rating.

• On the other hand Tennessee's Kerry Collins was 2 of 12 for minus-7 yards and a 4.9 passer rating against the Patriots, and the Jets' Mark Sanchez, coming down to earth after a 3--0 start, completed 10 of 29 for 119 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions (8.3 rating) in a 16--13 overtime loss to the Bills. So ineffective was Detroit's passing game in a 26--0 loss at Green Bay that the Lions had two quarterbacks with sub-23.0 ratings: Daunte Culpepper (22.3) and Drew Stanton (22.0).

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