Favre's approach makes big difference

Quarterback taking less chances and Packers are winning

Is Brett Favre the same Brett Favre that we have all seen in past years? The gunslinger who is not afraid to aim one of his laser-beam passes between two or more defensive backs in an attempt to make a big play? Is he the same quarterback with the awful mechanics of throwing off of his back foot? The quarterback who has the ability to run one way and throw the other way across the field to hit a receiver?

Yes and no. In short, Favre is aging gracefully.

Favre still can be found guilty of all of the above situations at any time, but more often than not the Packers have seen him accept his role as the director of the offense, and not the trailblazer. He is completing high-percentage passes and throwing away (yes, that's right) throwing away the ball when his receivers are covered. Checkdowns have become an option where in the past, he would laugh them off.

Sure, Favre will take shots deep down the field to keep defenses honest, but at calculated times. He hasn't had to scramble around the pocket too much to buy time and find a receiver because coach Mike McCarthy hasn't put him in that situation. Favre is buying into the system that McCarthy brought with him to Green Bay. For the coaching staff, that is a big-time accomplishment. Favre's ability to play within the scheme has meant wins.

The Packers have won three of their last four games, and blew decent chances of winning against St. Louis and Buffalo over the past month or so, to have a much longer win streak as the Packers prepare to host the New England Patriots Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers have increasingly improved with each game this season and Favre's ability to limit his mistakes has been key.

For Favre, who is bound for the Hall of Fame and on track to break more NFL records this season, that's all that matters. He is enjoying this season, happy with the agonizing decision he made over the off-season to return to football, and understands his ‘new' role.

"The wins are fun," said Favre. "I think earlier in my career I took for granted how difficult it is to win, and I know how difficult it is now to throw touchdown passes. Those go hand in hand. When you're throwing touchdown passes and you're winning as much as we did back then, you expect to do it all the time. Now, it's kind of hit or miss for us the last couple of years.

"I know if I play well, statistically speaking, and I'm not a big statistics guy, but I know this: If I'm dumping a pass off to Donald (Driver) and he's taking it 80 yards for a touchdown and if I don't turn the ball over, we have a pretty good chance of winning.

"Everytime I'm involved in a play that's positive, it's exciting because I know that it will lead to us winning, or give us a shot."

With only two interceptions over his last five games, and seven on the season, Favre is on pace to throw 12.4 in 2006. His career low is 13, set in 1992, 1995 and '96. He was intercepted a career-high 29 times in 2005 when he often tried to force the issue and make something out of nothing. This year, despite playing with two rookie guards (three rookie linemen this Sunday with Mark Tauscher out), and a young corp of wide receivers, aside from Donald Driver, Favre playing much better. Part of that has to do with the success of Green Bay's rushing attack, and part has to do with his determination not to turn the ball over.

"We barely won the game the other day," Favre said. "I thought our defense played outstanding. I thought our special teams played well. We didn't turn the ball over. That's a lot of pressure with each play, especially when we're struggling to run the ball. From my end, it's more what I do and don't do that's exciting. I know, to me, a three-yard completion or throwing the ball away, a few years ago was not a big deal. But now it's such a big deal, and I am excited about every good play that I make rather than years past. I don't take for granted every play. There may be 70 plays in the game and I have to play well in 68 of them.

"I'm excited anytime one of our guys catches it, and we continue to hold the ball. … It's been fun dealing with these young guys and seeing how the guys work. I know one thing, after nine games we have not quit one time. Guys have competed until the end. That has been a lot of fun. I'd much rather win every game, but I'd like to go down swinging and I think our guys have done that. That builds a lot of excitement not only with me but with the rest of the team."

Favre and McCarthy worked together in 1999 when McCarthy was the team's quarterbacks coach. Their relationship has been solid and productive, which also has helped Favre understand and succeed in the new scheme.

"When you talk to him, he knows exactly what you're talking about, whether you're talking about runs, blitz schemes, protections," McCarthy said. "I think he's really enjoying himself. He's fairly healthy, and winning takes care of a lot of things. He's in it to win. How many more individual things to you need. I'm not speaking for him, but he's about winning and I think he exemplifies that in practices and the way he goes about his business on game day."

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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