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Packers Are More Than Favre


RB Ahman Green accounted for 218 yards of total offense for the Packers on Sunday.

Through the early part of the season, Brett Favre looked like his old MVP self.

He effortlessly put up huge passing numbers while leading the Green Bay Packers to a 3-0 start. He was widely praised for combining both great physical skills with a deeper understanding of the game. He wasn't seen as merely playing as well as he did in the mid-1990s. He was seen as performing better.

But in three of his last four games, Favre has not resembled an MVP, past or present. He has struggled badly at times, throwing multiple interceptions and failing to make the big plays.

In losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 7 and the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 21, Favre's struggles largely explained the outcomes. On Sunday at Lambeau Field, he had another difficult time against the Buccaneers, but the Packers won, 21-20.

So what do you think Favre was doing as he was on the way to meet with the media after the game? If you guessed sulking, swearing, or looking for something (or someone) to kick, you would be dead wrong.

No, Favre was wrapping his arms around Allen Rossum in a huge bear hug. That was the quarterback's way of thanking Rossum for taking him off the hook for the two interceptions he threw (three if you count one that was overturned by a replay review), leading to 10 Buccaneer points, on a sub-200-yard passing day. Rossum saved the day for the Packers when he returned a punt 55 yards for the winning touchdown, the first scoring return of his career, with 3:03 left on the clock.

"Hey, we all have to make plays," Rossum told Favre.

"I was probably as excited for you as you were for yourself or the fans were," Favre replied.

And he couldn't have been more sincere. When Rossum was within five yards of the end zone on the return, Favre had run 10 yards onto the field before realizing he was in danger of drawing a penalty and hurrying back to the sidelines. After the score, Favre and wide receiver Antonio Freeman were, as Favre would later describe it, "over on the sidelines like two little kids, jumping around like in a playground."

Comebacks and fantastic finishes are nothing new to Favre. There was a time when it seemed like he was the only Packer player capable of producing them. Maybe that's the way a lot of the Green Bay faithfulstill feel.

However, times have changed. So has Favre. At 32, he is still very capable of performing miracles, as well as ranking among the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But he is also more willing to accept that he isn't going to make every big play the Packers need him to make in order to win.

On the Packers' first drive Sunday, Favre threw passes of 15 yards to wide receiver Antonio Freeman and seven yards to running back Ahman Green before finding Freeman for an easy 21-yard scoring strike. Favre admitted afterward that he assumed it was going to be a day when he rang up, well, Favre-like numbers.

It wasn't. Instead, Green finished with a career-high 169 rushing yards, including a 63-yard scoring run. And the defense sacked Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson seven times and, although, he threw two touchdowns, Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie thwarted repeated attempts to beat him deep. And Rossum went the distance with a short punt, running through a hole he described as being wide enough that anybody could have run through it.

And all of that was perfectly fine with Favre, because the Packers are 5-2 and holding their own in the NFC Central, which the surprising Chicago Bears rule with a 6-1 record.

"I find myself, the older I get, being just as excited about the touchdown passes that I have to finish a game as I am about Allen Rossum or Mike McKenzie making great plays when they keep trying to pick on him," Favre said. "That's what it's all about. That's what a team is all about.

"You know, Brett Favre's not always going to be the hero. And that is fine with me. It's okay. To see Ahman run sixty-three yards, to see Allen Rossum return that punt - that's a great feeling."

Which isn't to say that Favre didn't have his usual competitive fire during the game. He did what he has done before while struggling -- he forced passes that were intercepted or nearly picked off. And the Buccaneers clearly have his number, intercepting him three times in Tampa earlier this season. In both games this year, they fooled and frustrated him by mixing their coverages.

Favre appreciates having a good supporting cast. But sometimes, Packers coach Mike Sherman has to remind him, "You're not the only guy on scholarship on this team. You don't have to do it all by yourself."

No, you don't. To be 5-2 in a league where the competition has never been more balanced requires the most complete of team efforts. Offense, defense and special teams must make significant contributions.

And players and coaches need to be able to handle extreme emotional ups and downs, as the Packers have been experiencing.

"Our last four-five weeks have not been easy at all," Favre said. "To be able to handle going against Tampa twice in four weeks and to go to Minnesota, a place where we haven't had any success, and to play Baltimore, and to be here 5-2, I don't mean to say we've surprised a lot of people, but we're pleased with it. You have to win some games like this. The year we won the Super Bowl, we lost at Minnesota, we lost at Kansas City, we lost to Dallas. We didn't look very good.

"It takes all kinds. There are no easy games on your schedule. In our division now, home or away, they're always going to be tough."

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