The touchdowns, the interceptions, the NFL records, playing in arctic weather, and even shedding a few tears – it was an exciting and emotional ride for Brett Favre in 2007. During a regular season in which he became the NFL’s all-time greatest quarterback, at least based on statistics, Favre had a season to remember. Here is a diary of the games and moments that made his 16th year with the Packers:
Favre’s 16th training camp with the Packers begins with tragedy. His wife Deanna’s stepfather, Rocky Byrd, whom Favre was close with, dies of a heart attack. Favre misses five workouts to fly back to Mississippi and then re-joins the Packers looking to football as a form of therapy.
“I’m very thankful to have football,” he says, “because it is an extended family, and I include the fans in that as well. It gives, at least for me, something to direct my focus to.”
Sept. 9 – Week 1 vs. Eagles at Lambeau Field
After a ho-hum preseason for the Packers and Favre, the prospects for the regular season look even worse. The offense has trouble moving the football, but thanks to a stingy defense and opportunistic special teams, the Packers scratch out an ugly win. Rookie kicker Mason Crosby’s 42-yard field goal to end the game gives the Packers a victory, but two special teams miscues by the Eagles really make the difference.
“There’s no way we can win games like that week in and week out. We have to help those guys out,” Favre says. “That’s no secret. We have to score points, and we have to keep them off the field.”
A sidebar to the Packers’ victory, Favre ties John Elway on the all-time wins list by a quarterback with 148. He breaks the record a week later with a win over the Giants. In a season themed by setting passing records, the wins record is the one that perhaps means the most to Favre.
Sept. 19 – conference call with national media at Lambeau Field
For the first time really since the beginning of training camp, a hint of retirement talk comes up. Favre, about to turn 38 years old, nips it in the bud right away.
“You know what, I do get tired of hearing about it,” he says. “To be honest with you, I don’t bring it up. For whatever reason it took a life of its own several years ago. I know all these experts and people out there, they’re saying, ‘Well, he keeps talking about it.’ No, I don’t. And we’re talking about it right now.
“Watch me play. You’ll see the passion. Once again, we talked about competition, passion for the game. I’ve always had that, and that hasn’t changed. When it comes, it comes. People say, ‘What’s going to be the deciding factor?’ I don’t know. I haven’t retired yet.
“They still want me to play. I want to play. I still feel I can play at a high level. Until they tell me otherwise or until I wake up and say, ‘you know what, I’m done,’ then I’m going to continue to do that.”
Sept. 23 – Week 3 vs. Chargers at Lambeau Field
Even though they start the season 2-0, the Packers make a statement that this year is going to be different, if not surprisingly good. Beating one of the AFC’s top teams, the Chargers, 31-24, shows the Packers are on to something special.
For the second straight week, Favre unleashes an aerial assault that makes everyone forget about the Packers’ struggling running game. A perfectly-executed slant pattern to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter goes for a 57-yard, game-winning touchdown. Favre throws for 369 yards on 28 of 35 passing with three touchdowns. Those numbers have been ones unfamiliar to Favre in recent years just as does the Packers’ offensive game plan, which features an empty-backfield, five-wide receiver set that would become a staple for the rest of the season.
What began in Week Two against the Giants became more obvious against the Chargers. Head coach Mike McCarthy is giving Favre more options and authority than ever to get the offense in the right play at the line of scrimmage.
“Clearly, the quarterback, he’s the driver of any offensive scheme,” says McCarthy. “We couldn’t play with this approach if it wasn’t for Brett Favre.”
Late in the game, with the Packers on the goal line, Favre has a chance to surpass Dan Marino in all-time touchdown passes in front of the home crowd, but rookie back Brandon Jackson runs it in instead. The record will have to wait a week.
“I’d much rather win,” says Favre. “Reliability, durability, and winning, the other things come with that. I’ve played a long time. Fortunately for me I’ve been involved in a lot of wins. Because of that I’ve been able to play year in and year out. All of the individual statistics, they go with that. I think one day as I look back, I mean, I appreciate everything that I have accomplished. Believe me, I’m aware of all of that, but I’m still playing, I’m still trying to help this team win, and I’m focusing more on that as I always have and less on these other things.”
Diary of a Record Season
Working the Room Before Super Bowl XXXI
New Era, Same Favre
Laying It All on the Line
Jeckyl and Hyde
Dealing with a Favre-less Season
Special Game, Special Place
Dad ‘Was Watching Tonight’
By the Numbers
Teammates Return for ‘Icon’ Favre
Sept. 30 – Week 4 vs. Vikings at the Metrodome
With a contingent of Favre supporters on hand, including Deanna sitting in the first row in the corner of one of the end zones, Favre reaches the milestone of all milestones for quarterbacks. He wastes little time in reaching career touchdown pass No. 421, to surpass Marino, on a 16-yard strike to Jennings in the first quarter.
After Favre celebrates with Jennings, carrying the wide receiver over his shoulder, the game is stopped momentarily to honor Favre. Marino offers an audio and video tribute over the scoreboard.
“I loved holding the touchdown record for the past 13 years,” says Marino, “but if someone was going to break it, I’m glad it was someone like you, who has always competed at the highest level and has always played only to win. Over the past 17 years, you’ve been a credit to the Packers and the National Football League and to the sport we all love so much.”
The Packers win 23-16 and all is well in Titletown. The green and gold is 4-0.
Oct. 3 – Packers locker room
This Packers’ season is shaping up to be a special one. National media is starting to become a more common sight at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. This day, ESPN’s Kenny Mayne is in town, always a sign that something strange is up. Favre eats some lunch while sharing a brief, but comical conversation with Mayne before leaving the locker room. The Packers are getting ready for the Bears on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, but unfortunately, the Bears would have the last laugh.
Oct. 7 – Week 5 vs. Bears at Lambeau Field
With Favre coming off a record-breaking performance and the rival Bears in town, there is almost a red-carpet buzz to the game. On an unseasonably warm night, a clear sky is not the only setting allowing the stars to shine. Celebrity couple Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are spotted on the Packers’ sideline before the game, “American Idol” star Taylor Hicks leads the stadium in a round of “Roll out the Barrel,” and actor James Van Der Beek is said to be in attendance.
Favre receives one of the loudest roars he has ever gotten from the home crowd as he is announced as the starting quarterback. Flashbulbs light up the stadium bowl and even normally reserved, longtime season-ticket holders find a reason to stand up and cheer for Favre like never before.
The deafening noise gives the Packers momentum right away. They score on their first drive, but nothing much else goes right after that. The Packers commit five turnovers, and a second-half rally by the Bears gives the southern enemies a 27-20 victory.
Favre’s consecutive passes thrown without an interception streak is broken at 142 when he throws his worst pass of the year to a waiting Brian Urlacher with the Packers backed up on their own end.
Oct. 18 – Packers’ practice field
Packers’ wide receiver Koren Robinson returns to the team after a league-imposed, one-year suspension for substance abuse. No one is happier than Favre, who went out of his way to contact Robinson by phone during Robinson’s suspension just to see how he was doing.
A year earlier, Favre even lashed out at the NFL’s suspension policy saying he did not necessarily think it was right that a player was taken away from his team when such a unit could provide him with support during a suspension. Robinson shows his appreciation for Favre and says he is unlike any other top player in the NFL.
“To have him speak highly of me,” says Robinson, “it just motivates me to continue to do what I’m doing.”
Mid-October – Bye week preparing for the Broncos
After a poor offensive showing against the Redskins on a rainy, foggy day at Lambeau Field (Oct. 14), questions surface about Favre’s ability to throw the deep ball. Going against the Redskins’ Cover 2, a defense that has given Favre fits over his career, he badly underthrows at least four passes. Two are intercepted.
Luckily, the Packers’ defense rises to the occasion and the Packers escape with a 17-14 victory to move to 5-1 at the bye.
During his poor performance, Favre also throws his 278th career interception, surpassing George Blanda for the all-time career mark. Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who just weeks later would be tragically shot at his Florida home, makes the historic interception.
At his bye week press conference then, Favre insists that he can still make all the throws. He sums up his performance against the Redskins as a poor one and has the attitude that it will not deter him from throwing the deep ball in the future.
Oct. 29 – Week 8 vs. Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High
Favre has had his share of moments on “Monday Night Football” and this has to rank in the top five. Almost on cue from the press conference in Green Bay days earlier, he unleashes two of the prettiest-looking long passes he has ever thrown. The first comes late in the opening quarter to rookie James Jones, who beats cornerback Champ Bailey down the right sideline for a 79-yard touchdown.
The game’s clincher, though, was even better.
With the game tied at 13 in overtime, Favre wasted no time in delivering the knockout punch. On the first play of the extra period, he checks to a different play at the line of scrimmage and takes his shot. Seeing Jennings one-on-one and the safety in a position he likes, Favre uncorks another long beauty, this time down the left sideline to Jennings, who never breaks stride behind cornerback Dre’ Bly for an 82-yard touchdown.
The game-winning score sets off a crazy celebration along the Packers’ sideline and for the Packers’ fans in attendance including Favre’s wife, Deanna.
Nov. 4 – Week 9 vs. Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium
The Packers’ magical regular-season run continues as they complete an improbable sweep on the road beating the Chiefs, 33-22. Favre again features the deep ball during a 360-yard passing day in a tough environment.
A furious fourth-quarter rally by the Packers is highlighted by a 60-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Jennings down the middle of the field for the game-winning score.
Favre, in what became a repeated refrain in 2007, admits after the game that he does not know how his young team keeps winning, but that he is enjoying it. After two road wins in six days, the Packers are 7-1.
Nov. 22 – Thanksgiving Day vs. Lions at Ford Field
Turkey Day games have not always been so good to the Packers. This one, though, would be one to remember.
With the surprising Lions nipping at the Packers’ heels for NFC North supremacy, the Packers all but lock up the division title with their sixth consecutive victory, a 37-26 decision.
If Favre’s previous weeks had a heart-attack flair for the dramatic, then this performance was one of a patient brain surgeon. In maybe his best overall performance of the year, Favre looks unstoppable. He completes 20 straight passes, a team record, as the Packers build a 34-12 lead into the fourth quarter.
Four different receivers catch at least five passes and each display a knack for gaining yardage after the catch helping Favre to a 381-yard passing day.
Nov. 29 – Week 13 vs. Cowboys at Texas Stadium
Billed as one of the best NFL regular season games in years, Favre suffers an all-too-familiar fate in Dallas, losing there for the ninth straight time. Falling 37-27, the Packers (10-2) give the Cowboys (11-1) the inside track on home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Favre’s night is almost as bad as the NFL Network’s broadcast. Completing just five passes in 14 attempts with two interceptions, Favre leaves the game after taking a helmet-to-elbow hit that triggers numbness in his fingers. Backup Aaron Rodgers enters in the second quarter for Favre and leads a comeback, but it comes up just short.
Favre also reveals that he suffers a separated left shoulder, but with 10 days off until the next game, he almost immediately assures that he will be back to make his 250th consecutive start (270 including the postseason). There is also a feeling that the Packers will get another chance to see the Cowboys again in the playoffs, so all is not necessarily lost on an otherwise haunted night.
Dec. 4 – Skylight Studios in New York City
Favre flies to New York to accept Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Award. He is only the fourth quarterback to win in the 53-year history of the award.
In the Sports Illustrated article preceding the ceremony, Favre explains how he has become a much different person than when he arrived in Green Bay.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a loner,” he says. “You’ve just been out there in front of 80,000 screaming people, everyone watching every move you make, the pressure of all of that – it’s fine and dandy for three hours, but afterward… I used to thrive on that adrenaline. I never wanted it to end. Now I need to get back to reality. Like sitting on the couch with Charlie (his dog).”
Also revealed in the article was a powerful meeting between him and Anna Walentowski, a 6-year-old with a rare type of a degenerative brain disorder. He met Walentowski through the Make-A-Wish Foundation after a Packers’ practice in September 2004.
So taken was Favre by the meeting that he taped a prayer card that Walentowski had given him to his refrigerator, where it stayed for the rest of the season.
The Dec. 10 issue of SI that honors Favre flew off store shelves, particularly in Green Bay and around Wisconsin, to the point where stores were taking orders. It eventually goes into a third printing making it one of SI’s most sold issues ever.
Dec. 6 – Make-A-Wish Foundation press conference at Lambeau Field
The Make-A-Wish Foundation presents Favre with the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award, honoring top celebrities and organizations “who embrace the Foundation’s mission and grant remarkable wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.”
On hand at the ceremony is Walentowski, who Favre has not seen since their first meeting. Upon speaking at the press conference with Walentowski by his side, Favre sheds his ironman exterior for a moment, getting choked up as he talks about Walentowski and sees the remarkable improvement she has made in three years. The two break the moment with a hug.
Dec. 9 – Week 14 vs. Raiders, postgame press conference at Lambeau Field
Sporting a camouflage winter hat, Favre meets with the press and looks no worse for the wear after his injures in Dallas. It is the seventh time that Favre has come back the following game to play after an injury forced him out of the previous game.
On an 18-degree day, Favre throws two more long touchdowns, an 80-yarder to Jennings and a 46-yarder to Lee to systematically dismantle the Raiders, 38-7. The win secures the NFC North title for the Packers and a spot in the playoffs.
Dec. 12 – midweek press conference at Lambeau Field
So much of Favre’s renaissance season has to do with a group of receivers who are so talented after the catch. As a group, they lead the NFL in yards gained after the catch.
Well aware of that statistic, Favre knows his great season owes credit to his teammates on offense. This day, Favre utters one of his best lines of the year when he tries to put into words how difficult it is to bring down wide receiver Donald Driver.
“I tell people you could put Donald in a phone booth with 11 guys and it would take five minutes for somebody to touch him,” he says.
Dec. 16 – Week 15 vs. Rams at Edward Jones Dome
With really every major passing record to his credit, Favre jumps over his last hurdle. On a simple slant pass to Driver, fittingly enough, he passes Dan Marino (61,361) for No. 1 on the career passing yards list.
The play shows what kind of year it has been for the Packers’ offense. Favre sees Driver essentially uncovered at the line of scrimmage, and though a running play was called in the huddle, a quick snap leads to a quick and effective completion.
Dec. 23 – Week 16 vs. Bears at Soldier Field
For the first time all season, Favre looks much the part of a 38-year-old quarterback. Facing arctic weather conditions just off the shore on Lake Michigan, the Packers and Favre are unable to get on track.
Favre tells Fox broadcaster Troy Aikman before the game that he might be lucky to complete five passes all day in the blustery conditions. Winds gust to 40 mph and wind chills are below zero. Many Packers say the conditions are the worst they have ever played in.
Favre bests his own prediction with 17 completions, but throws two interceptions. Bears’ third-string quarterback Kyle Orton outplays him.
The 35-7 clunker of a loss ends the Packers’ chance at gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Dec. 30 – Week 17 vs. Lions at Lambeau Field
With the weather still cold, but a little better than in Chicago the week prior, the Packers return home and whip the Lions, 34-13, to close out the regular season 13-3 in one of the franchise’s best seasons ever. Two years ago, the Packers were just 4-12.
“I’m a little bit surprised by the turnaround,” says Favre. “But I’ve played long enough to know that anything can happen. It’s been a dramatic turnaround, I’ll say that. I’m glad I’ve been a part of it. I’m glad I’ve been productive. It makes my decision to come back seem like the right decision, which I felt like it was when I made that decision.”
With the Packers already having locked up the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, McCarthy makes seven starters inactive for the game. Favre plays just over a quarter and looks like he has for much of the season with two touchdown passes.
Favre finishes the season with 28 touchdown passes and 4,155 yards, the most he has thrown for since 1998. His 66.5 percent completion rate is the best of his career.
Perhaps most importantly, Favre ends the regular season not talking retirement, but rather about the playoffs. The Packers return there for the first time since 2004.