Perfect 10

In the eyes of some, three-time National Football League MVP Brett Favre has slipped from the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Kurt Warner puts up better numbers. Daunte Culpepper has the physical tools to become one of the best of all time. Peyton Manning has the skills and intellect to carve up the opposition.

In the eyes of those who matter, Favre remains one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in the league. Period. In the Green Bay locker room, there isn't a player in the league who'd trade Favre.

"He's got it," one NFC Central Division assistant coach said last year, referring to the hard-to-put-a-finger-on trait that allows the indestructible Favre to be football's version of Houdini. To get a better idea of what it is, here are 10 items Farvelous to commemorate Favre's 10th year in Titletown.

1. Sept. 20, 1992. Green Bay 24, Cincinnati 23. The Packers' high-priced starting quarterback, Don Majkowski, left the game with a strained ligament in his left ankle. Favre, acquired during the off-season in a much-ridiculed trade with Atlanta, stepped in and went 22 for 39 for 289 yards and two touchdowns. But it is pass No. 39 that sent Favre into Green Bay immortality.

With the Packers trailing 23-17, Green Bay took possession at its 8-yard line with about two minutes to play. Passes of 4 yards to Harry Sydney, 42 to Sterling Sharpe and 11 to Vince Workman set the Packers up at the Bengals' 35 with seconds to play.

"That last ball, I was scared I was going to throw it halfway up the stands. I closed my eyes and when I heard the crowd I knew we had it or were close." Favre's bomb was a perfect strike to Kittrick Taylor for the winning touchdown. It was the first of Favre's 20 come-from-behind victories.

2. Nov. 15, 1992. Green Bay 27, Philadelphia 24. Favre shows just a portion of the guts that make him a legend. Harassed all day by the Eagles' menacing pass rush, Favre gets dumped on his left shoulder by Reggie White. The pain is nearly unbearable; but the thought of leaving the game is even more unbearable for Favre.

"I don't think I've ever come out of a game in my life except in the fifth grade," Favre says afterward.

Trailing 24-21 late in the fourth quarter, Favre's 34-yard aerial to Sharpe sets up the game-tying field goal. A quick Eagles turnover allows Chris Jacke to kick the winning field goal. Favre finishes 23 for 33 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, Favre's toughness impresses the soon-to-be free agent White, who selects Green Bay as his new home and sets the wheels of a championship in motion.

3. Nov. 14, 1993. Green Bay 19, New Orleans 17. The Comeback Kid strikes again, this time with his never-say-die attitude pulling the Packers to victory. Harassed all day by the Saints' potent pass rush, Favre rolls left, shakes off a would-be sack and throws a 43-yard laser to Sharpe, who catches the ball and runs another 11 yards to set up the winning field goal. This comes just a week after Favre turned the ball over five times in a loss at Kansas City.

"Basically, we had to throw the ball down the field and they knew that, too," Favre said, demonstrating that while defenses might know what to expect from Favre, stopping him is a whole other matter.

4. Jan. 8, 1994. Green Bay 28, Detroit 24. In a carbon copy of the Saints game from seven weeks earlier, Favre rallies the Packers to an unlikely victory. With the ball at the Lions' 40 and 1:05 to play, Favre was flushed left, looked left, and threw the ball about 65 yards across the field to a streaking Sharpe along the right sideline to give the Packers their first playoff victory under Favre.

"It was just kind of, I don't want to say a hope and a prayer, but that's really what it was. ... Who knows where I'll throw it? Sometimes I never know," Favre said.

5. Dec. 18, 1994. Green Bay 21, Atlanta 17. This was a must-win for the playoff-hopeful Packers in the finale at County Stadium in Milwaukee. And the odds were against Favre and Co. as they walked onto the field 67 yards away from the end zone with 1:58 remaining and with Sharpe out of the game with an injury.

Favre started the drive by hitting Mark Chmura for 25 yards. On a third-and-7 play from the Atlanta 35, Favre connected with Robert Brooks for 10 yards. On another third down, Favre hit Brooks for 9 to the Atlanta 17. After he spiked the ball to stop the clock, Favre completed a pass to Chmura to the Atlanta 8.

With 21 seconds left, Favre looked for Brooks, but he was covered. Favre scrambled to his right and set sights on the pylon. "I knew I was going to get in. It was either get in or we might have lost it because we might not have enough time to (stop the clock)," Favre said.

Getting a key block from Brooks, Favre hurdled into the end zone for the winning score.

"There's something special about his ability to make something out of nothing. He's special that way," coach Mike Holmgren said of Favre, who was 29 of 44 for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

A 34-19 victory over Tampa Bay the following week put the Packers into the playoffs, as Favre completed 24 of 36 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers went on to beat Detroit in their playoff opener, only to lose at Dallas for the second consecutive year.

6. Nov. 12, 1995. Green Bay 35, Chicago 28. Favre has played in an NFL quarterback-record 141 consecutive games. At no time was that streak in deeper jeopardy than during this showdown against the Bears. The Packers entered the game on a two-game losing streak to fall to 4-4, and Favre was listed as questionable with a bad ankle. He practiced little on the Friday and Saturday before the game, but was a startling 25 for 33 for 336 yards and a whopping five touchdowns.

"... this was such a big game, against the Bears, first place was up for grabs and I had been hurt all week and didn't know if I was going to come back and play," Favre said. Favre's exploits made him the league's player of the week for the second time in four weeks.

7. Dec. 24, 1995. Green Bay 24, Pittsburgh 19. This game lives in Packers lore as the Yancey Thigpen Game, in "honor" of the Steelers receiver who dropped the game-winning touchdown pass to hand the Packers their first Central Division championship in 23 years.

Lost in all that is another vintage Favre performance. He was 23 for 32 for 301 yards — his seventh 300-yard game of the season. More impressively, an 8-yard Favre scramble ended with him spitting up blood after landing on the football. A play later, Favre hit Chmura for a 1-yard touchdown to put Green Bay in front 21-10.

"Never in my life had I spit up blood. But once I kind of cleared my lungs, I wasn't going to let (backup quarterback Jim McMahon) steal my touchdown pass."

8. The 1995-1996 playoffs. In the playoff opener against Atlanta, Favre completed 24 of 35 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns as the Packers rolled 37-20. A day later, Favre won his first MVP award after throwing for 4,413 yards and 38 touchdowns.

Relaying a story of how then-quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci told a young, immature Favre he had the tools to be MVP, Favre said, "I just said ‘OK, whatever. Let's just get this meeting over with and get the hell out of here.'"

Then, in the biggest victory to date in the Favre era, Green Bay stunned Super Bowl-favorite San Francisco 27-17. Favre was flawless, going 21 for 28 for 299 yards and two touchdowns.

"I went up against the best and I stood my ground," Favre said of his confrontation against the 49ers' Steve Young. The season, again, ended in defeat in Dallas.

9. The 1996-1997 playoffs. The time had come for the Packers, who finally had the tools to surround Favre. The team's improvement showed in the playoff stats, as Favre did next to nothing in a 35-14 thrashing of the 49ers at muddy Lambeau Field. The next week, the Packers won the NFC championship by hammering Carolina 30-13. Favre was 19 for 29 for 211 yards, and guided the Packers to five straight scores to put the game away.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Favre kept the team loose by flashing his sense of humor. Talking about his rookie season in Atlanta, Favre said, "I remember I was eating crawfish and drinking a cold beer. God, the good 'ol days."

In reality, Favre wouldn't trade those days for what happened during Super Bowl XXXI. Desmond Howard's kickoff return touchdown and Reggie White's three sacks may be remembered most, but Favre set the tone by hitting Andre Rison with a 54-yard touchdown on the Packers' second play of the game. Who can forget the sight of Favre tearing off his helmet and sprinting to the sideline with a smile as big a third-grader on the last day of school?

"I was just so excited that it turned out exactly the way we had practiced it," Favre said of the play, which he called at the line of scrimmage.

After New England rallied to a 14-10 lead, Favre hit Antonio Freeman for an 81-yard score to put the Packers back in front. Favre finished 14 of 27 for 246 yards as the Packers won 31-24.

"Every guy in the world would like to win a Super Bowl," said Favre. "First of all, you'd love to be able to play pro football but to win the Super Bowl, there's nothing better."

10. The 1999 and 2000 comebacks. For a team coming off two Super Bowl trips and a heartbreaking loss to San Francisco in the 1998-99 playoffs, the 1999 and 2000 seasons, which ended without berths in the postseason, were a huge disappointment. Still, with the talent surrounding him nowhere near what he had during the Super Bowl years, Favre was in many ways on top of his game.

In the 1999 opener, Green Bay rallied past Oakland 28-24 to give Ray Rhodes a win in his debut. The 11-play, 82-yard drive that covered the final 1:56 of the game — capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Thomason — was miraculous considering the bruised thumb Favre suffered during the preseason opener and reaggravated early in the Oakland game.

"His hand looked like somebody ran it over with a car," LeRoy Butler said after the Raiders game.

Favre literally was left speechless afterward, breaking down in tears during the postgame news conference. Bad thumb and all, Favre was named player of the month after leading the Packers to three come-from-behind victories in the first four games.

Comeback No. 2 came against Minnesota (23-20) when Favre threw a 23-yard laser to Corey Bradford on fourth down with 12 seconds left. The winning drive covered 77 yards in 1:44.

Comeback No. 3 was against Tampa Bay (26-23) when Favre stood firm against an all-out rush and connected with a diving Freeman for the winner to cap a 73-yard, 40-second drive.

Last season, Favre led the Packers to four comeback home victories, including the opener against Philadelphia and the Monday nighter against Minnesota in which Favre hit Freeman with an amazing touchdown pass in overtime.

With Favre healthy entering this season and the talent level its highest since the Super Bowl years, look for Favre to add another couple memories to his highlight-film career.

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