Big-Game Brett: Which Will It Be?

Packers fans know all too well the good and the bad that comes with Brett Favre at quarterback. This season, he has remained generally error-free for the Vikings, but with all the buildup for his first battle with the Packers, will that change? Our Matt Tevsh offers some food for thought.

It's Brett Favre Week in Green Bay, and although Packers' players and coaches are doing their best to downplay the matchup with their former quarterback, all eyes soon will be focused on No. 4 in a purple jersey.

Favre will play his first game against the Packers, yes against the Packers, when the Vikings host Green Bay at the Metrodome on Monday night before a national audience. It will be, perhaps, the biggest regular season game of the 19-year veteran's career considering he made his legend in Green Bay and now plays for its hated rival.

The enormous stage is set. Now the biggest question is: Which Favre will show up Monday night?

Just three games into his Vikings career, Favre has looked much more the "game manager" than the "gunslinger" Packers fans have come to know. With a variety of weapons at his disposal — namely the NFL's top running back, Adrian Peterson, and a dynamic rookie, Percy Harvin — Favre has been able to rely on a strong ground game and dink-and-dunk passes to get by.

Sunday's dramatic 32-yard touchdown pass from Favre to wide receiver Greg Lewis with 2 seconds remaining lifted the Vikings to a 24-20 victory over the 49ers. The great throw and catch has many believing the old Favre might be back. For the Vikings, that could be a bad or a good thing.

Favre has had his share of great moments in big games, but his mistakes in such games have been equally compelling. The second half of his career in Green Bay was all but defined by meltdowns at the worst moments, even if fans often gave him a free pass because of what he did in the first half of his career.

As regular-season games go for Favre, none were more hyped in the post-Mike Holmgren era than a 2007 game at Dallas, a 2004 Christmas Eve game at Minnesota, and a 1999 Monday night game against the Seahawks. Favre was 1-2 in those games.

At Dallas in 2007, in a matchup of 10-1 teams, Favre came out throwing wildly, completing just 5-of-14 passes with two interceptions before leaving the game with an elbow injury. Aaron Rodgers relieved Favre and almost brought the Packers back from a large hole before losing 37-27.

At Minnesota in 2004, Favre had one of the best games of his career, completing 30-of-43 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns (against only one interception). With just one regular-season game remaining, the Packers wrapped up the NFC North title.


Favre flopped in his first game against Holmgren, throwing four interceptions.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
It is the 1999 game, however, at Lambeau Field against the Seahawks that has been the subject of conversation this week. In that game, Favre threw four interceptions in Mike Holmgren's return to Green Bay for the first time since the coach left to lead the Seahawks. The Packers lost 27-7.

"I think he was definitely excited about that game," recalled Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was the Packers' quarterbacks coach at the time. "I could remember the first interception like it was yesterday because he tried to throw it through three people to the post down in the red zone. He was gunned up for that game. But frankly, he was in some tough spots in that game, too. I'm not just crying because I was his position coach and it didn't go very well. But that was a rough night. That was a rough night."

The atmosphere and the emotions that night in Green Bay were in many ways bigger than the game. Monday night's game will be similar, but Favre said on Thursday that he is beyond getting caught up like that again.

"I would like to think so," Favre said in a conference call with the Wisconsin media. "I think one thing I have noticed over the last few years is that we all know there are some games that are bigger than others, even though it's still another game. I found out that I actually look at it more that way, and I think that's probably age as much as anything and just the experience, and I'm not saying that from like a well-seasoned experience type of thing, I just think that if you've done something so many times, it's not as — I don't want to say exciting, because it's still exciting, or I wouldn't play — but it's harder to, at times I wish I would be a little more emotional, not that I want to ride the roller coaster, if you will, but. And I think what helps here, obviously, is more than anything, is having a running game with Adrian Peterson. That's not to say he won't be stopped. I thought San Francisco did a heck of a job, but you feel like that's always kind of a crutch for you to fall back on. A pretty good one, too."

The wild ending against the 49ers notwithstanding, Favre, through three games, has shown signs of change. Part of that needs to be credited to Vikings coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and part of it falls on Favre realizing the talent around him.

Over the first two weeks of the season Favre was completing passes at a 77.1 percent clip, but for just 5.5 yards per attempt. Last week against the 49ers was much different. Favre was 24-of-46 for 301 yards including his first interception of the season. Dre' Bly dropped what would have been Favre's second interception of the season on the Vikings' final drive.

All together, Favre's 566 passing yards and 6.0 yards per pass attempt rank among the bottom 10 quarterbacks in the league. Still, Favre's 94.5 passerrating is eighth, just one spot behind the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (97.2).

About to turn 40 on Oct. 10, Favre is understandably a much different quarterback, but will that be the case Monday night? Against the NFL's leader in takeaways? Can he stay composed with so much more on the line than just a win? This might just be his ultimate test.


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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