Vikings' Favre embarrasses Thompson, Packers
by Alex Marvez
Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He's covered the NFL for the past 15 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America.
October 6, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS - This was the matchup Green Bay never wanted to happen.
Now we know why.
Losing to a hated division rival is painful enough. Being tormented by a Packers legend is an outright embarrassment to the franchise.
Brett Favre got what he wanted.
There is no greater revenge that Favre could have personally extracted on Packers general manager Ted Thompson than the humiliation he delivered Monday night. Wearing a throwback Minnesota Vikings jersey, Favre turned the clock back to the days when he was winning three NFL Most Valuable Player awards in Green Bay before being shipped out of town.
Favre coolly channeled the inner rage toward how his 16-season Packers tenure ended into one of the most rewarding performances in a Hall of Fame career. A 271-yard, three-touchdown effort paced Minnesota's 30-23 home victory.
Just like during the week preceding the game, Favre tried downplaying the personal satisfaction of sticking it to the Packers. That's OK. Favre's teammates spilled the beans on what this game meant to him.
"Just the determination in his eyes, you could tell this was a little extra," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said.
Peterson then laughed and said, "It wasn't just another game. We can admit that now."
The reason dates back to summer of 2008 when Favre decided to emerge from his first retirement. The Packers had vigorously tried to keep Favre from playing in Minnesota once it became clear the Vikings had interest and Green Bay was moving on with Aaron Rodgers as its starting quarterback. Packers management first tried persuading Favre to stay retired with a lucrative post-football endorsement deal. When that didn't work, Thompson refused to trade Favre to Minnesota and instead dealt him to the New York Jets. Thompson even included language that required New York to provide Green Bay heavy draft-pick compensation if Favre was ever sent to the Vikings.
A bitter Favre took verbal shots at Thompson, a good man who was in a tough spot because of the quarterback's offseason waffling and the much-younger Rodgers being ready to play. Favre never called Rodgers to offer advice on trying to fill his giant shoes. And as first reported by FOXSports.com NFL insider Jay Glazer, Favre spilled secrets about Green Bay to Detroit during a telephone conversation before a 2008 early-season game.
But the most harmful thing he did to the Packers? Favre found a way to Minnesota even if it was one season late. Favre and his agent shrewdly negotiated his outright release from the Jets after New York selected replacement quarterback Mark Sanchez in April's draft. That cleared the way for Favre to do the unthinkable for Packers faithful: Come out of retirement again to wear purple, white and yellow.
"I know there are Packers fans out there who like me and there are those who are unhappy," Favre said during his postgame news conference. "I can understand how they feel."
Favre, though, clearly has no remorse about extending his NFL career elsewhere.
"As long as the guys in the locker room give me a good chance to win, that's all that really matters," Favre said.
With the Vikings at 4-0, it's obvious they do.
Green Bay's defense contained star Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (55 yards on 25 carries) but had no answer for a familiar face. Early in the third quarter, Favre's massive offensive line provided almost eight seconds of protection on a drop-back that he converted into a 25-yard completion to tight end Jeff Dugan. On the next snap, Favre fooled cornerback Al Harris with a pump-fake. That freed wide receiver Bernard Berrian down the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown strike as a trailing Harris pointed at Packers safety Derrick Martin bemoaning the lack of coverage help.
The play that put Minnesota up 28-14 was just a small part of a game-long quarterback clinic. Despite saying he was "about as nervous as I've ever been before a game going into this one," Favre started hot and stayed that way. He connected on all five of his passing attempts on Minnesota's opening drive, capping it with a 1-yard touchdown throw. Favre started the play by rolling right but fullback Naufahu Tahi was covered. Favre, though, didn't hesitate. He stopped and fired back across the field to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for the score.
A scene Green Bay knows all too well followed: A Favre touchdown celebration. He ran around wildly, stuck his finger in the air and leapt for a body-bump with kicker Ryan Longwell.
So much for the foot injury that limited Favre in last week's practices.
Favre was at it again in the second quarter after Green Bay had tied the score at 7. On third-and-11 from the Packers 14-yard line, Favre dropped back and pumped to his left. He then avoided Green Bay's pass rush by shifting slightly to the right before gunning a touchdown pass down the middle to wide receiver Sidney Rice.
So much for concerns about Favre's arm strength after offseason biceps surgery.
The Packers countered with their second big play of the game, a strip of Peterson and 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown by rookie linebacker Clay Matthews. Peterson, though, was soon making amends with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. That's because Favre quickly marched Minnesota downfield with completions of 16, 19 and 43 yards to Rice, running back Chester Taylor and rookie wideout Percy Harvin. By the time he was done Monday night, Favre had connected with eight receivers.
So much for Favre needing more "bonding" with his targets.
In fact, just about everything Favre has done in 2009 defies conventional NFL wisdom. Nobody returns from two separate retirements. Players — especially quarterbacks — are supposed to need offseason programs for conditioning, mastery of the playbook and bonding with teammates. Plus, Favre's wishy-washy behavior until deciding to return midway through training camp would have alienated other coaches without nearly as much patience — and perhaps desperation — as Minnesota's Brad Childress.
Entering the game, Favre was more caretaker than difference-maker in Minnesota's offense. His average per completion (6.0 yards) was Favre's lowest in 18 seasons. Favre's lack of mobility also was exposed with nine sacks through three contests.
But while not as spry, Favre — who turns 40 Saturday — also is playing smarter football than at maybe any other point in his NFL career. The risk-taking that led to so many roller-coaster Favre moments — mostly good, some bad — is greatly tempered. An efficient Favre has only one interception through four games, his lowest total ever as an NFL starter.
The old Favre magic in crunch time is still there as well. Favre proved that eight days earlier when hitting Greg Lewis on an improbable game-winning touchdown pass against San Francisco.
He didn't need any late heroics this time. A Jared Allen-led defense sacked Rodgers eight times, notched one safety and forced two turnovers that were converted to touchdowns. The Packers (2-2) also doomed themselves by failing to convert on three consecutive plays from the Vikings 1 late in the third quarter. A fourth-down drop by tight end Donald Lee essentially sealed Green Bay's fate despite a rally that fell short in the final minute.
"We wanted to make a statement," Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "It's a frustrating deal. We have to fix this team."
Favre didn't take any extra joy publicly in helping to break the Packers, a team he will be facing again Nov. 1 at Lambeau Field in what will be another emotionally charged encounter. But when asked whether he wanted to keep the football from the final snap that reserve quarterback Sage Rosenfels salvaged from the referee, Favre didn't decline the gift.
Rather than taking a spot on Favre's mantle, the ball actually belongs in the Hall of Fame. Favre is now the first starting quarterback in NFL history to defeat all 32 NFL teams — a scenario Thompson made possible by cutting ties with a player whose bust will be in Canton soon enough.