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Original Issue

Merely Human In a game that demanded perfection, Brett Favre was good, but not good enough

Two nights before Super Bowl XXXII, Brett Favre was on top of
the world. The San Diego weather would be perfect and the
Qualcomm Stadium track fast, and he felt great--unlike last
year, when he had dry heaves and nerve-racked nights leading up
to the game. Relaxed and mischievous at dinner last Friday, he
chanced the sliced ostrich in port-wine sauce and the tenderloin
of Texas antelope. "I can just hear the announcers on Sunday,"
Favre said. "'Favre's a little under the weather today. Must be
antelope poisoning.'"

Or maybe, as Packers coach Mike Holmgren said 48 hours later,
"Brett's a human being." When it was over, when Favre had
finished dissecting his C+ game in Green Bay's stunning loss to
Denver, he limped out of the interview tent, a turf toe on his
right foot killing him. "I'm going to bed," he said in a hoarse
voice. "I'm doing nothing tonight but sleeping."

Just then, Broncos free safety Steve Atwater walked by, and the
two warriors embraced. "You're a true champion," Atwater

Sometimes true champions have days like Favre had. It was an
O.K. day--25 completions in 42 attempts, for 256 yards--but not
the kind of clutch performance we've come to expect from the
first man to win three straight league MVP awards. He did find
wideout Antonio Freeman twice for touchdowns, and he lobbed a
perfect rainbow over strong safety Tyrone Braxton to tight end
Mark Chmura in the corner of the end zone for a third scoring
strike. But he forced a pass into heavy coverage for an easy
interception by Braxton in the first quarter and threw another
in the third quarter that should have been picked off but was
dropped by Atwater. In the second half the Packers were an
uncharacteristic 0 for 7 on third down. While the main reasons
the Packers lost were the brilliance of Terrell Davis, the
disappearance of Green Bay defensive stars Reggie White (one
tackle) and Gilbert Brown (embarrassing exhaustion), and the
Denver offensive line's ability to neutralize LeRoy Butler (most
of whose tackles were made in the secondary), Favre wasn't
himself on Sunday.

"We didn't have it today," Favre said. "I overthrew [Freeman] by
a hair down the sideline and just missed the pass to Robert
Brooks on the last drive. Sometimes you make the plays, and
sometimes you don't. We scored three touchdowns, and it should
have been enough. It wasn't."

Fact is, the Broncos were ready for whatever Favre threw at
them. "Two days after the AFC Championship Game," cornerback Ray
Crockett said, "Tyrone Braxton and I watched hours of Favre from
the last half of this season. We saw how many chances he takes.
He's succeeded on most of those chances the last few years and
gained tremendous confidence. By being a risk-taker, he's become
the greatest quarterback in the game. But what made him great
got him in trouble against us."


COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER Steve Atwater (obscured) had the only sack of Favre; the resulting fumble led to a Denver field goal. [Steve Atwater tackling Brett Favre]