As I sat in the Edward Jones Dome Sunday afternoon and watched the Green Bay Packers beat the hapless St. Louis Rams, I couldn’t stop a wandering eye from glancing up at the far side of the building.
There on the ring of honor, beside Rams greats like Marshall Faulk and Merlin Olsen, and other St. Louis football icons like Dan Dierdorf, were digital displays providing scores and stats from around the league.
Packers fans delighted in seeing the Minnesota Vikings trailing San Francisco late at home. Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre was having a yeoman’s day, completing 50 percent of his passes for a pedestrian 221 yards.
At the same time inside the Edward Jones Dome, new Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hitting big plays to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, and leading the Packers to a 36-17 win.
Rodgers had a sparkling passer rating of 126.9 by virtue of his 13-for-23 day with 269 passing yards and touchdown tosses to Driver and fullback John Kuhn. Rodgers also ran for a score and picked up another 38 yards with his legs.
What the thousands of Packers fans in St. Louis were unable to see was the switch in Favre’s head they had grown so accustomed to seeing for 16 seasons get flipped.
Favre had engineered 39 fourth-quarter comebacks for the Packers, displaying the intangible ability to take over a game when it was on the line. Sure he lost a few along the way, but his talent for dominating a game, and the exuberance in which he did so, is what made him a sure-fire Hall of Famer. It’s also the reason he grew to become arguably the most beloved player in Packers history.
Now donning the purple of the hated Vikings, Favre reminded Packers fans of his greatness, and proved to the rest of the league that he still has it.
Taking over at their own 20 with 1:29 remaining and trailing by four, the Vikings were without a timeout. Favre, who had been 18-of-36 for 221 yards with a touchdown and interception, engineered a 10-play, 80-yard drive to lead the Vikings to an improbable win.
Two weeks before his 40th birthday, Favre led his 40th career fourth-quarter comeback. He was 6-of-10 on the drive, with two incompletions as a result of having to spike the ball to stop the block. The drive ended with a remarkable 32-yard fastball to Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone with just two seconds remaining.
Favre had done it.
He pumped left, rolled right, avoided a sack by skipping backwards, then rifled a pass with pin-point accuracy between two defenders. Lewis did his part, too, laying out for the ball, and getting both feet in bounds.
Following a review, the touchdown was upheld, and the Vikings knew now why their coach had pursued Favre so heavily.
Brad Childress was often chastised for dissing the two quarterbacks he had in camp, incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, a player they traded for to push Jackson for the starting job. But, at the end, there was Jackson right next to Favre giving him a congratulatory hug.
Even Jackson realized that neither he nor Rosenfels would have led the Vikings to a victory that day.
Brett Favre is Brett Favre for a reason. He’s a bona fide Hall of Famer for a reason.
As well as Rodgers has played for the Packers, they are still a team that has won just eight of 19 games since Favre led them to 13 wins in 2007. People are still second-guessing the decision of general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy not to welcome Favre back after he changed his mind about retirement in June of 2008.
On Sunday, the old, grey-haired quarterback gave those naysayers another reason to say, “I told you so.”
* – Brett Favre photo credit: City Pages