For Favre, the Past Isn't Prologue

A little revisionist history would make the Packers' postseason track record with Brett Favre at quarterback a tad more unsightly than it actually is. Starting with its Super Bowl XXXII loss to Denver following the 1997 season, a year removed from winning the league title, Green Bay has lost six of its last eight games in the playoffs

That puts the Favre-led Packers at a rather unimpressive 11-9 in postseason play since 1993, never mind their crowning glory in 1996.

Small wonder that Mike McCarthy, as he prepared to make his playoff debut as a head coach Saturday against visiting Seattle in the semifinals of the NFC bracket, didn't bother looking back at video of Favre's previous performances in those do-or-die games.

"I don't think it factors into how we're going to play this game or how he's playing today," McCarthy said this week. "It's not like we arrived here five or six weeks ago. We've been here. This is our second year (with the offensive system). We have history with Brett. You can see the progress we've made with Brett running this style of offense. I don't really feel it's to our benefit to go back and look at those games."

Indeed, the renaissance enjoyed by the 38-year-old Favre in this unexpectedly prolific season for the young Packers is a far cry from the reckless numbers he put up in the recent postseason meltdowns. In those six losses dating to Super Bowl XXXII, when the Packers were huge favorites against the Broncos, he had 16 interceptions with just 11 touchdown passes, no 300-yard passing games and a completion percentage lower than 60 in five of the contests.

"I'm not ashamed by anything I did," Favre said in retrospect. "I'm disappointed in some of those games. I'm very disappointed in the Denver game; I thought I played pretty good but not good enough.

"I'd like to think that we would have or should have won more playoff games, which, in turn, lead to a chance at the Super Bowl, at least. But, I don't know if I would have done anything much different. I think I would have prepared and played the same way. It's just you have a tendency to remember those because of what they represent."

Since the Packers' playoff prospects this season seemingly are linked to how Favre fares, as the case invariably was in earlier years, the few players who have remained teammates with him for an extended period think his play in the regular season is a sign of better things to come. Favre bought into McCarthy's low-risk, high-reward offensive philosophy and rarely made the nonsensical throws that have tarnished his legacy in the past. Favre's completion percentage was a career-high 66.5, and his interception total of 15 was his lowest in six years.

"He's playing in a system," eighth-year tight end Bubba Franks said Wednesday. "He doesn't have to do too much. He just does his job and (we) make sure everybody else does their job. We won't have a problem (Saturday)."

The heavily favored Packers can safeguard themselves against another early exit from the playoffs by not falling behind. The few times Favre relapsed, putting the ball up for grabs, came when Green Bay was forced to play catch-up in its three losses, when his touchdown-to-interception ratio was one to six. The opportunistic Seattle defense, with 36 takeaways to its credit in 17 games this season, undoubtedly will be chomping at the bit.

If McCarthy can help it, by getting in Favre's ear on the sideline should the Packers face a deficit Saturday, the potential for them rallying to victory will be far greater than the quarterback's throwing away one more postseason game. "The key to playing offense the way we want to play is making the quarterback successful, and that's not taking a lot of chances," McCarthy said. "If you're taking chances, then I'm not calling the right plays."

SERIES HISTORY: 13th meeting. Packers lead series, 7-5. Green Bay has won three of the last four encounters, all since 2003, including the teams' only postseason meeting -- 33-27 in overtime on Jan. 4, 2004, in the NFC wild-card round at Lambeau Field. The Packers have a 4-1 record in games played in Green Bay. The Seahawks won the most recent meeting, 34-24 at Seattle in 2006.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Never one to clamor for media attention, cornerback Al Harris has shrugged off being in the middle of all the pregame hoopla this week for the matchup against Seattle on Saturday in the NFC divisional playoffs. The last time the teams met in the postseason, Harris went down as a legend in the Packers' nonpareil history. He intercepted a pass from Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown to decide Green Bay's 33-27 overtime win in a wild-card game on Jan. 4, 2004 at Lambeau Field. Fast forward four years, Harris doesn't think of the play as the capstone of his 10-year pro career.

"It was a big play. It was a big moment in my life, in my career, but I wouldn't define my career by that play," he said. "It rarely happens like that. You call the blitz, and what you're looking for happens. It rarely happens like that, so it was a lucky play." In fact, Harris never kept the football, instead handing it over to a fan in the north end zone after he completed his game-winning sprint to the end zone.

--The postseason rematch between the Packers and the Seahawks also has stirred memories of what took place before the overtime period. Seattle won the coin toss at midfield, which prompted Hasselbeck to announce for all at the stadium and those watching and listening around the world to hear, "We want the ball, and we're going to score."

Packers quarterback Brett Favre acknowledged this week that he never heard the ill-fated utterance made by Hasselbeck, a onetime teammate in Green Bay. Then-Packers running back Ahman Green filled Favre in on what was said before the kickoff to start overtime. "People can call it what they want, but I thought it was pretty neat," Favre said. "I wouldn't do it, but I'm not saying that negatively.

"We've had a little fun sending messages back and forth this week. I think he makes that team go, and I like his confidence that he brings to the game, I really do, and I thought it was pretty funny myself. I was thinking, 'Boy, we better stop him.' I'm sure he felt like they would get the ball and they were going to score."

--The Packers, who endured a three-year swoon playing at home, believe they recaptured what they refer to as the "Lambeau Advantage," going 7-1 there during the regular season. Home-field advantage, though, hasn't worked in Green Bay's favor in its most recent playoff appearances. The Packers have been eliminated in two of their last three playoff games at home -- they lost to Atlanta and Minnesota in the NFC wild-card round in the 2002 and '04 seasons, respectively. "Some of the communication that I received from people when we went through that drought (was) that maybe it was the hot tubs before the game and other ridiculous things and maybe it was too much pressure playing at home," second-year head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We need to play football. We're going to play football (Saturday) in one of the best sports venues in all of sports. That's a blessing, but we need to play football the way we're capable of playing, regardless of where we play it."

Green Bay has the second-best winning percentage (.875) at home in the playoffs with a 14-2 record.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- 300-yard passing games by Packers quarterback Brett Favre in 20 playoff appearances. Favre has thrown for at least 300 yards only once in Green Bay's last 13 postseason games, dating to the 1996 season, with the Packers' going 7-6.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There is a big difference, and I think it will play a factor. The teams who constantly go to the playoffs and have been to the playoffs and the players who've been in these situations you
see come up big and play well. So, I think it will be a big difference." -- Packers veteran cornerback Al Harris, when asked on how much of a factor the difference in playoff experience between Green Bay and Seattle would mean for their game Saturday. All but six players on the Seahawks' 53-man roster have appeared in a playoff game. The Packers, coming off a first-round bye, have only 17 players with postseason experience.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Although Will Blackmon returned to practice Wednesday, Tramon Williams likely will be thrust into the nickel-back role in the NFC divisional playoff game against Seattle on Saturday. Blackmon tested a right foot injury he aggravated in the regular-season finale Dec. 30 by participating in the jog-through portion of practice at the outset and then doing some individual drills off to the side before leaving for further treatment. Head coach Mike McCarthy said the medical staff would wait to see how Blackmon's foot responded to the brief workout before clearing him for action Saturday.

If Blackmon is activated, he'll probably handle punt-return duties but perhaps nothing more. "The return game is the biggest factor that I think he can contribute in the football game," McCarthy said. "Sub defenses is something you have to be concerned about because he hasn't taken the reps with (Tuesday's) and (Wednesday's) practice."

Williams, a first-year player, hasn't played much on defense this season, but he was given his first start in the final regular-season game and responded with his first interception and two pass breakups.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Charles Woodson was the only player absent from practice Wednesday. The veteran starter experienced some swelling in a knee after bumping it in practice Tuesday, but the injury won't keep him out of the game Saturday.

--WR Greg Jennings was held out of the last portion of practice Wednesday after experiencing tightness in his groin. It's not cause for alarm with the team's touchdown leader, who is expected to be fine for the game.

--WR James Jones, likewise, was sent off the field as a precautionary measure toward the end of Wednesday's practice after a hamstring tightened. The No. 3 receiver will be ready for Saturday.

--RG Jason Spitz has gone through two straight days of practice without incident and is set to make the start this weekend. Spitz is coming back from a strained right quadriceps he suffered in the final regular-season game Dec. 30.

--RB Brandon Jackson returned to practice Wednesday, a day after he was sent home because of flu-like symptoms.

--QB Aaron Rodgers, who returned to practice last week, hasn't endured any lingering issues with a sore hamstring that made him unavailable for the final four regular-season games and will be Brett Favre's top backup Saturday.

GAME PLAN: Brett Favre hasn't thrown more than 45 passes in any of his previous 20 playoff starts, and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy would like nothing more than to keep that streak intact by having a balanced plan of attack come to fruition. However, if Seattle's irrepressible front seven clamps down early on running back Ryan Grant, as it did in holding Washington's Clinton Portis to 52 rushing yards last weekend, McCarthy won't wait to turn Favre and the quick-strike passing attack loose. Provided playing conditions are conducive, expect a greater frequency of four- and five-wide formations to spread the Seahawks out as a way to throw a wrench in their pressure packages.

Similarly, the Green Bay defense will be on guard against Seattle's pass-oriented tendencies. The return of Deion Branch to the Seahawks' fleet of receivers could create some matchup headaches for the Packers secondary, which likely will be relying on untested nickel back Tramon Williams to work with Al Harris and Charles Woodson in trying to also contain Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson. Green Bay's best bet to keep Matt Hasselbeck, who's less than 100 percent with a sore thigh, from getting in a groove could be to pull out all the stops with blitzes. The X factor is Shaun Alexander, who is nothing like the running back that was the 2005 league MVP but went off for 201 yards in 40 carries against Green Bay last season. The Packers have been vulnerable against the run down the stretch.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Packers RT Mark Tauscher vs. Seahawks LDE Patrick Kerney. Green Bay won't let Tauscher go it alone against Kerney, but the athletic and savvy Packers veteran is capable of holding his own against the league's best defensive lineman going right now. Tauscher's physical strengths are with leverage and balance, which will have to come to the fore if Kerney is going to be knocked back on his bull rushes and pushed off track on his speed rushes. Since Seattle figures to try to exploit Green Bay's instability in the interior of the line, tight end Bubba Franks becomes a key component for his blocking abilities to help Tauscher take on Kerney on the outside.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy vs. Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren. Coaching experience in the playoffs is Holmgren's in a landslide. He will be at the helm in a postseason game for the 24th time, while McCarthy is getting his initiation. Holmgren also has been there, done that with winning January football games at Lambeau Field, albeit during his celebrated stint with the Packers in the 1990s. McCarthy, though, hasn't blinked in his sophomore season and arguably was the league's top coach in the regular season after guiding the NFL's youngest team to a 13-3 record, the NFC North title and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Now, he gets to try to match -- and supersede -- West Coast play-calling wits with the venerable Holmgren.

INJURY IMPACT: With the exception of CB Will Blackmon, who could be limited because of an aggravated right foot injury, the Packers expect to be as healthy as they've been all season for the NFC divisional playoff game against Seattle on Saturday. Blackmon tested the foot briefly in practice Wednesday and will be evaluated up until the afternoon of the game to determine whether he can play. He'll likely relinquish the nickel-back role he had toward the end of the regular season to Tramon Williams. Blackmon, though, would be counted on to return punts. RG Jason Spitz is good to make the start, as he's gone through the week of practice without any setbacks to the right quadriceps he strained in the regular-season finale Dec. 30.


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