More than four years ago, Tampa Bay failed to record a sack in a loss to the Vikings at the Metrodome (Oct. 3, 1999). That must have unleashed some kind of demons, because the following week, the Bucs put Brett Favre on the turf five times in a Sunday night contest which the Packers eked out 26-23.
That streak continued through the rest of the '99 season and through the next three. The Bucs kept rolling in 2003, just last week setting the NFL consecutive game sack record at 69.
Then, despite coming into the game on their home turf, boasting NFL sack leader Simeon Rice as well as the always dangerous Warren Sapp, the Bucs' D saw their streak fall to the team with which it started – the Green Bay Packers.
"That was huge for us," guard Mike Wahle said. "We knew that coming in. That was a big point of emphasis. We didn't want to get Brett beat up. He did a great job getting the ball away today, and I think we did a pretty damn good job of keeping them out of his face. And when you're running the ball like that, it put the defense on their heels a little bit and it stops the pass rush."
Favre, who has found himself on the receiving end of a Warren Sapp sack more times than he cares to remember, was surprised to hear his team had broken the impressive streak.
"Until you told me that, I didn't realize that. It doesn't make it any sweeter, the win itself is big," Favre said. "They're a great defense. I don't care what people say right now: they're a great defense. They pose a lot of problems, one of them being sacks. We ran the football extremely well and our offensive line, as they have done all year, played lights out. We didn't have to pass that much and when we did they didn't get to us. "
A stellar running game didn't hurt. Favre, who was sacked three times in the team's 2002 meeting, cut down the Bucs' odds Sunday with just 28 passing attempts. In his 20 regular-season starts against Tampa, Favre has averaged 33 attempts.
Packers finally on-board at RJS: After their first five tries came up empty, the Packers got their first win at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, aka the Pirate Ship. The losing streak dates back to Dec. 7, 1998, when Green Bay fell to Tampa 24-22. The Packers fumbled eight times in that game – only two were lost, but it must have been a bad omen. Also, the loss at RJS ended the Packers' streak of 10 consecutive December wins, dating back to a Dec. 10, 1995 OT loss at the Bucs' former home Tampa/Houlihan Stadium.
"I hate to lose anywhere. I hate to lose on the road, I hate to lose at home, but Minnesota and Tampa Bay over the long haul has been a thorn in our sides, " Favre said. "Losing to Tampa Bay here the last five or six years, it's tough to take, but they're a great defense. You know you're losing to a great team. Not that it makes it any easier. But when you beat a team like this, at their place, it kind of feels good."
Touchdown train rolls on: With his five-yard TD pass to Tony Fisher in the first quarter, Favre ran his consecutive-game touchdown streak to 19. That broke a tie – with himself –for second place on the Packers' all-time list. Cecil Isbell set the standard with TD passes in a skein of 22 games covering all of the 1941 and '42 seasons. Favre had reached 18 twice; from week 3 in 1997 to week 4 in 1998; and his current run, dating back to week 9 last year. Favre also holds fourth place on the list with a 17-game run spanning weeks 8-16 in 1994 and weeks 1-8 in 1995. The only QB besides Favre and Isbell ranking in the top 5 is Don Majkowski, who enjoyed a TD run from week 15 of 1988 to week 13 of 1989.