Last Saturday, after the Packers' final practice of the week,
quarterback Brett Favre drove 30 miles in a steady rain to a
1,000-acre hunting preserve in northeast Wisconsin. He climbed a
tree and sat in a stand with his bow and arrows, waiting for a
buck. The rain never let up, and Favre sat for four hours
without firing a single arrow. On Sunday morning he was still so
eager to shoot that before he left for Lambeau Field and Green
Bay's showdown with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, he
fired three arrows at the target in his backyard. "All three
were dead center in the bull's-eye," Favre said on Sunday night.
"I didn't think anything of it at the time, but I guess it was a
Favre, 32, has won three league MVPs and one Super Bowl. He has
passed for more than 4,000 yards three times and thrown at least
30 touchdown passes five times. Last week, in his 150th NFL
game, going against what he called the best defense he's ever
faced, he played arguably the best game of his life. "I'd be
hard-pressed to say, considering the quality of the team we
played, that I've ever had a better game," he said.
In Green Bay's stunning 31-23 win, Favre had the most efficient
passing day by a Ravens' opponent since 1997 (27 completions in
34 attempts, for 79%), accounting for 337 yards and three
touchdowns with no interceptions. Favre led the four longest
touchdown drives allowed by Baltimore this year (59, 74, 80 and
82 yards), keeping the Ravens on their heels by using a quirky
mix of play-action passes and runs out of the shotgun.
"I'm not in fear of anyone," Favre said from his home four hours
after the game ended, while an outdoors show played on the TV.
"But last week I watched six Baltimore games on tape. Good
offenses, too, like Oakland's and Denver's. I saw that so many
teams have chances but never capitalize. When [offensive
coordinator] Tom Rossley talked to our offense about the game
last week, he told us we could have 400 yards if we executed
right. I'm looking around the room at our young guys, and I can
see them thinking, Sure. Who's he trying to kid?"
The Ravens, who haven't permitted an opposing player to run for
100 yards in 38 games, line up mountainous tackles Sam Adams and
Tony Siragusa to plug the middle. Outside speed rushers Michael
McCrary and Peter Boulware chase quarterbacks relentlessly,
while ace cover cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Duane Starks
blanket receivers. For insurance, there's pit-bull middle
linebacker Ray Lewis.
Everyone has tried to get Baltimore off-balance, usually by
spreading out and adding extra receivers to get the 340-pound
Siragusa off the field. Rossley thought if he put Favre in the
shotgun most of the day but ran out of it often, he'd keep the
defense honest and not let the rushers cut loose on Favre.
Rossley calls the plays snapped out of the shotgun "keeps." Said
Favre, "They'd think it was a run when we had two backs beside
me, and sometimes it was. After the game McCrary came up to me
and said, 'I played the keeps all day.'"
Precision was vital too, because the Ravens don't leave much
room for receivers to breathe. Late in the third quarter, with
Green Bay leading 17-10, Favre sent wideout Donald Driver and
two other receivers down the left sideline, while Antonio
Freeman did a curl on the right side. He stared a hole in
Freeman, trying to make the safety cheat toward that side, all
the while yearning to throw deep to Driver.
"From the time I started playing quarterback in the fifth
grade," Favre said, "I was always taught not to throw a pass
when the safety is there to help. But I thought that I could get
this ball in to Donald. Before he turned for it, I threw the
ball as hard as I could, and the safety charged. The ball got to
Donald at the perfect time." The 37-yard completion helped set
up Green Bay's third touchdown.
Afterward the Favres--Brett, wife Deanna and daughters Brittany
and Breleigh--joined a crowd of players and their families at
Brett's Green Bay steak house for dinner. A fan asked the
quarterback if the Ravens had talked much trash. "Not at all,"
Favre said. "They were the classiest guys we've played. I talked
with a bunch of them after the game--McCrary, Goose, Lewis--and
they said, 'Great job. Stay healthy. Hope we meet in the Super
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Passed perfect With Green beside him to keep the D honest, Favre riddled the Ravens' secondary.