Mentally prepared

Extra film study, game planning paying off for Favre

Brett Favre has always had a strong arm. Still does. But the common thread during a season in which he has been mentioned as a NFL Most Valuable Player candidate is how he has raised his level of mental preparation for each game.

"I want to out-smart them with my mind, which I never thought I would say that, Favre said, "but that's the way I'm approaching it."

More often than not this season, Favre is one of the first players to arrive at Lambeau Field, and one of the last to leave. Even on off days, Favre will often pour over film in an effort to be ready for Green Bay's upcoming opponent. As a result, Favre is completing passes at a similar rate to when he won three straight MVPs from 1995-97. He enters Sunday's game against Carolina having thrown for 322 yards or more in six of the past seven games.

"Mentally I want to know what's happening before it happens," says Favre. "That's a huge challenge because the game of football has changed and will continue to change, and the speed of the game has changed. The reaction that I make is based so much on my study time and what I put into it."

Favre has thrown for 2,757 yards for Green Bay's league-leading passing offense. His quarterback passer rating of 96.2 is second among NFC quarterbacks behind Tony Romo's 103.3.

Though New England's Tom Brady is on an MVP pace with 33 touchdown passes, Favre is making a case for his fourth such honor with 16 touchdown passes against eight interceptions while leading the surprising Packers to an 8-1 record. The 38-year-old Favre is practically a shoe-in for his ninth Pro Bowl, and currently leads all NFL players in votes. But he's likely more focused on what the Panthers will be trying to do to stop Green Bay's pass-happy offense.

"He's definitely watching a lot of film," said backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "He knows the looks. He's got a hand in knowing the plays on Monday and Tuesday. They want to make sure he feels comfortable with everything. The plays he doesn't like, we throw out. The plays he likes, we call."

Favre, who is scheduled to extend his record starting streak to 247 straight regular season games on Sunday, often has faced eight and even nine defenders in coverage this season. Yet, he has found ways to complete 67.2 percent of his passes, which is second among NFC quarterbacks and among the top five in the NFL.

"Their (Carolina's) defense really game plans week in and week out," said Favre. "They give you a different look. For us, or for me, that's a challenge. I'm not sure what they'll do this week. We have an idea, but I have to be on top of my game, which I feel every quarterback, every player, should feel that way. Up to this point, I've challenged myself to be prepared, and feel like I've done that. That's our plan right now, to give different looks, and it's been productive for us."

Favre threw for 351 yards and three touchdown passes in the Packers' 34-0 win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. In the process, he joined Dan Marino as the only players in league history to throw for 60,000 yards. Favre has 60,257 yards in his 16-year career. Marino's record is 61,361.

The Packers will be going for their fifth straight win against the Panthers, but not before Favre prepares through practice and film study with his teammates and coaches, and on his own.

"He'll be here in the evenings when everyone is gone, or early in the morning before anyone gets here," said quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. "He's watching film, trying to get himself prepared to play as well as he can."

Favre, head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will go over potential plays to use against an opponent on Monday and Tuesday before a Sunday game. They'll implement the plays that Favre is comfortable with during practices from Wednesday through Friday, then meet again Saturday morning to further discuss plays, Clements said.

"(Mike McCarthy) tries to call plays with the quarterback in mind," Clements said. "If he calls the play, but the quarterback doesn't like it, it's hard to call that play because the play caller is not out there executing it, the quarterback is."

Clements helps Favre prepare mentally by often quizzing Favre on what he would do in certain situations during a game. "‘What would you do from a protection standpoint? Who would you look at to throw to? What adjustments might you make?'" Clements explained. "We just try to play the game mentally during the week, so when that situation arises during the game, you've thought it through, and you have an answer."

Because of Green Bay's weak run game earlier this season, Favre was limited to shorter passes. Against the Vikings, however, Green Bay's 32nd ranked rushing attack showed signs of life, which might open the door for longer passes downfield. Favre's 82-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings helped the Packers beat the Broncos in overtime on Oct. 29. Favre's 60-yard pass to Jennings put Green Bay ahead for good in the fourth quarter of the Packers' 33-22 win over Kansas City.

"I think he's taking what the defense is giving him, and guys are making plays for him," said Rodgers. "We lead the league in yards after the catch. That's a big testament to our receivers, but also a testament to Brett. He's taking what the defenses give him and not forcing the ball. Guys are making plays when they get the opportunity."

Favre insists that it all starts with his mental preparation.

"Mentally I've prepared more this year than I have ever prepared, maybe to offset some of the physical deficiencies, whatever they may be," Favre said. "I can't say from a preparation standpoint that it's more enjoyable, whatever. It's more of a challenge, and it's no different with Carolina."

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


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