It was the worst game of Favre's career, and not just because it ended with a throbbing right elbow and a separated left shoulder. In Favre's brilliant career, not once has he posted a passer rating as low as the 8.9 he produced against the Cowboys.
Favre exited after completing 5-of-14 passes for 56 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His rating topped (lowered?) the 9.6 compiled during a 31-10 loss at Denver in 1999. In his 249 consecutive starts, those are the only two games with a rating lower than 25.0.
It was vintage Favre on Thursday, and by that, I mean it was another big-game performance in which Favre fell flat.
Favre is having a sublime season, but he pressed the issue again and again against the Cowboys. While the pass protection was lacking and surely deserves a chunk of the blame, Favre simply didn't do the things he did so often and so well during his just-ended five-game run with consecutive passer ratings topping 100 and three-game streak without an interception.
Why did he continually throw it deep? Yes, that was part of the game plan, but what Favre has done so well this season is throwing the ball to the second, third or fourth option. The depth of the Packers' receiving corps is a tremendous strength — and is a big reason why they moved the ball well with Aaron Rodgers — but Favre reverted back to that gunslinger mentality of trying to make a play when the play isn't there.
If Favre has any intention of leading this team to something beyond simply a division title and playoff berth, he's going to have to do some soul-searching and figure out why he's played so poorly in big games.
For instance, here's what Favre did when the Packers were eliminated from their four trips to the playoffs this decade:
— Jan. 9, 2005 (2004 playoffs): 22-of-33, 216 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 55.4 rating, in a 31-17 loss at home to Minnesota.
— Jan. 11, 2004 (2003 playoffs): 15-of-28, 180 yards, 2 TDs and one horrendous, up-for-grabs interception in overtime in a 20-17 loss to Philadelphia.
— Jan. 4, 2003 (2002 playoffs): 20-of-42, 247 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 54.4 rating, in a 27-7 loss at home to Atlanta.
— Jan. 20, 2002 (2001 playoffs): 26-of-44, 281 yards, 2 TDs, 6 INTs, 53.5 rating, in a 45-17 loss at St. Louis.
Favre, as the veteran leader of a young offense, is supposed to be showing the younger players how to handle big-game situations. His Cowboys counterpart, Tony Romo, was supposed to be the one who flinched under such an intense spotlight.
Instead, Romo destroyed a quality Packers defense while Favre simply self-destructed.
All of which leads to one gigantic question: Will Favre be the starting quarterback next Sunday against Oakland?
You don't need me to remind you that Favre would be starting his 250th consecutive game. That's a pretty nice number. Sure as heck sounds better than 249.
"I anticipate being fine. I hope I am," Favre said. "There have been numerous times where there's been an (injury) where it came down to the day before a game. I don't envision this being one of them, but we'll wait and see.
"I'm not getting any younger. It takes a little bit longer to recover, but I think I'll be OK."
If Favre's elbow has healed, then of course he'll start. One bad game by Favre and one impressive performance out of the bullpen by Rodgers is no reason to make a change, and anyone who suggests otherwise probably spent too much time sniffing rubber cement back in grade school.
But what if Favre's elbow isn't quite up to par? McCarthy wisely kept Charles Woodson and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila out out the lineup at Dallas. McCarthy knows Thursday's game wasn't for the Super Bowl. Even after what we witnessed, there's no reason to think the Packers can't go back to Dallas in mid-January and emerge victorious. A lot of young players just got their first taste of a truly big game, and they should be better after that experience.
So, would McCarthy actually consider giving Favre the week off if his meal-ticket quarterback isn't close to full strength but is still able to run the offense?
Rodgers played well enough to make you think he could lead the team to victory against Oakland, and giving Favre an extra week to heal — just like McCarthy did with Woodson and KGB — might make sense in the long run. And, with a decent cushion in the race for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, the Packers have some margin for error.
Then again, who wants to be remembered as the coach who stopped Favre's starts streak? On the other side of the coin, I have a hunch Favre cares a lot less about his streak today, with a 10-2 record and dreams of something Super, than he has the past couple of years.
Knowing Favre's track record, he'll start and light up the Raiders for four touchdowns. Heck, he'll probably dive head-first into the end zone for good measure.
What matters, though, is Favre getting his act together physically and mentally in time for the presumed rematch at Dallas. Playing well in Game No. 13 is a lot less important than him playing well in Game No. 17 and beyond.
Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com
Since he became the Packers' starting quarterback in 1992, Brett Favre has posted 22 games with passer ratings of less than 50.0. Here they are:
Nov. 29, 2007: 37-27 loss at Dallas — 5-of-14, 56 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 8.9 rating.
Dec. 17, 1999: 31-10 loss at Denver — 7-of-23, 120 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 9.6 rating.
Oct. 20, 1994: 13-10 loss at Minnesota — 6-of-10, 32 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 25.8 rating.
Nov. 1, 1999: 27-7 loss to Seattle — 14-of-35, 180 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 26.8.
Oct. 5, 1998: 37-24 loss to Minnesota — 13-of-23, 114 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 30.3 rating.
Dec. 5, 2004: 47-17 loss at Philadelphia — 14-of-29, 131 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 32.4 rating.
Dec. 17, 2006: 17-9 win over Detroit — 20-of-37, 174 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 32.9 rating.
Sept. 17, 2000: 6-3 win over Philadelphia — 18-of-33, 189 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 33.5 rating.
Dec. 19, 2005: 48-3 loss at Baltimore — 14-of-29, 144 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 34.3 rating.
Nov. 24, 2002: 21-7 loss at Tampa Bay — 20-of-38, 196 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 36.6 rating.
Dec. 22, 2002: 10-0 win over Buffalo — 15-of-33, 114 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 39.2 rating.
Sept. 10, 2006: 26-0 loss to Chicago — 15 of 29, 170 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 40.9 rating.
Dec. 24, 2000: 17-14 win over Tampa Bay — 20-of-42, 196 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 41.4 rating.
Dec. 27, 1992: 27-7 loss at Minnesota — 23-of-35, 187 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 43.4 rating.
Oct. 14, 2007: 17-14 victory over Washington — 19-of-37, 188 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 43.5 rating.
Oct. 2, 2006: 31-9 loss at Philadelphia — 22-of-44, 205 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 44.2 rating.
Dec. 25, 2005: 24-17 loss to Chicago — 30-of-51, 317 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INTs, 44.3 rating.
Jan 2, 1994: 30-20 loss at Detroit — 23-of-37, 190 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 44.7 rating.
Nov. 5, 1995: 27-24 loss to Minnesota — 17-of-30, 177 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 46.1 rating.
Nov. 27, 2005: 19-14 loss at Philadelphia — 15-of-33, 171 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 46.4 rating.
Sept. 7, 2003: 30-25 loss to Minnesota — 25-of-41, 248 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 46.6.
Sept. 26, 1993: 15-13 loss at Minnesota — 20-of-31, 150 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 49.1 rating.