Favre faces pressure from Seahawks, within

Favre's error-prone playoff history is running headlong into Seattle's big-play defense. PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence explains.

Stop me if you've heard this before: If the Packers are going to beat the Seattle Seahawks in Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game, Brett Favre must have a good game.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

However, unlike in playoff campaigns under Mike Sherman, when the Packers needed Favre to throw for 250 or 300 yards and three touchdowns, the Packers just need Favre to not screw things up on Saturday.

Coming together like two trains speeding headlong into each other is Favre's playoff history colliding with a turnover-producing Seahawks defense.

First, there's Favre, who has developed a bit of a history of not coming up big in the big games, a trend amplified against Dallas in November.

In his last seven playoff games since a Super Bowl XXXII loss to Denver, Favre and the Packers have won just twice, with Favre throwing 11 touchdown passes against a woeful 16 interceptions.

Favre remarkably has subdued his gunslinger mentality this season due in part to coach Mike McCarthy's tutelage — a big reason why Favre finished as runner-up for NFL MVP and McCarthy as runner-up for coach of the year. Despite having the mental and physical burden of the offense resting squarely on his shoulders, Favre was picked off only 15 times this season and rarely forced balls into openings the size of a gnat against double coverage.

In the Packers' one playoff-type game this season, however, Favre reverted to form. On Nov. 29 at Dallas, Favre completed 5-of-14 passes, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

If Favre, sensing this might be his last great chance to get to a Super Bowl, forces the issue, he'll pay a heavy cost against an opportunistic Seattle defense.

The Seahawks' big-play aptitude was on display in last weekend's wild-card win over Washington, when they brought back two interceptions for game-turning touchdowns.

It starts with a defense's best friend, and that's a vicious pass rush. Left defensive end Patrick Kerney — who was part of the Atlanta team that handed the Packers their first Lambeau Field playoff loss — led the NFC with 14.5 sacks and linebacker Julian Peterson added 10.5. Their combined 25 sacks were tops for an NFC duo.

With Seattle finishing fourth in the NFL with 45 sacks, quarterbacks have had time only to make mistakes. Seattle tied for fourth in the NFL with 20 interceptions, a major reason why — despite just an OK secondary — it tied for seventh in takeaways (35), fifth in turnover margin (plus-10) and sixth in scoring defense (tied with Green Bay with 18.2 points allowed per game).

A Mike Holmgren-coached team always will be known more for its offense, but the Seahawks have four of the NFC's 11 Pro Bowl defensive starters: Kerney, Peterson, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and cornerback Marcus Trufant.

They played like it last week when the Seahawks' defense dominated the Redskins when it mattered. But that was the Redskins.

Todd Collins isn't Favre, who is having arguably his finest NFL season.

The Redskins had a rookie right tackle trying to block Kerney. The Packers have the veteran savvy of Mark Tauscher.

The Seahawks beat the Redskins at rowdy Qwest Field. This time, the Seahawks are coming to Lambeau Field, not exactly the Fort Knox of NFL stadiums come playoff time anymore, but it's still two time zones and a whole lot of decibels from the comfort of home.

As it's been around here for 16 years, the Packers' fate will fall on Favre. How will he handle the pressure from the Seahawks and the pressure from within?

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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