The game was billed as Brett Favre’s bicentennial, but it was more than that.
It was proof that the Green Bay Packers, left for dead seven weeks ago, are a serious Super Bowl contender. Proof they can run the ball without the help of Ahman Green. And further proof that their quarterback is as mentally tough as he is physically gifted.
As his wife, Deanna, watched from the family’s luxury suite -- a week removed from her first round of chemotherapy for breast cancer -- Favre threw three touchdown passes to help the Packers to a 45-17 rout of St. Louis on a frigid night at Lambeau Field. It was the 200th consecutive regular-season start for Favre, an NFL record.
“This is a celebration of just being consistently great,” tackle Mark Tauscher said. “I don’t know if you’ll see another quarterback set this record, but to shatter the record and continue to play at as high of a level as he has for 200 weeks ... he’s been the key to this team for 200 straight weeks, and that’s pretty impressive.”
That’s 199 starts more than Green Bay running back Najeh Davenport, who stepped in for injured Green then stomped all over the Rams (5-6), gaining 178 yards in 19 carries, the fifth-highest rushing total in team history. It was the first 100-yard rushing performance of his pro career.
The Packers (7-4), tied with Minnesota for the lead in the NFC North, have won six in a row since losing four straight to drop to 1-4.
Their last loss came on “Monday Night Football,” in fact, a 48-27 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans. It was the humiliation of that, some Packer players say, that turned the sleepwalkers into sledgehammers.
“The Tennessee game was almost the best thing that could have happened to us,” fullback Nick Luchey said. “When we were 1-3, we were saying, ‘Aw, we’ll get it together.’ But after we got blown out by Tennessee here on Monday night, that’s when it hit home. Everybody in here looked in the mirror, players and coaches. Everybody came together. We looked at each other and said, ‘What is it we’re not doing right? Good is not good enough. We’ve got to be the best.’ ”
In their last two meetings with the Rams, the Packers committed 12 turnovers and were outscored, 79-41. The first of those losses came in the 2002 playoffs, when St. Louis picked off six Favre passes. Then, in October 2003, Favre suffered a broken right thumb in another loss at St. Louis.
Within the first three minutes of the St. Louis game, the Packers set a very different tone. Three plays into the Rams’ opening possession, Isaac Bruce caught a short pass and was stripped by rookie cornerback Joey Thomas. Another rookie corner, Ahman Carroll, scooped up the fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
The play provided some instant warmth for the crowd of 70,385 bundled against the 26-degree elements. Carroll would later intercept a Marc Bulger pass in the end zone, thwarting another St. Louis threat.
Statistically speaking, it was a spectacular night for Bulger. He threw for 448 yards on 35-of-53 passing, the most passing yards ever against the Packers. Then again, St. Louis treats running the ball as if it’s a last resort. Granted, they were playing from behind from the first touchdown on, but the Rams ran the ball just once in the second quarter, long before the game got out of hand.
Bruce would atone for his fumble. He wound up with a game-high nine receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown. Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis added six receptions apiece for the Rams, who have lost four of five since beating Tampa Bay on Monday night, Oct. 18.
Donald Driver, Bubba Franks and Javon Walker caught touchdown passes for the Packers, whose quarterback is 37-1 when the temperature at kickoff is 34 degrees or below. Favre finished the night with nice numbers, completing 18 of 27 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
Favre continues to pile on the accomplishments. His 200 straight starts is a record for quarterbacks and is 84 more than the next-closest streak, belonging to former Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski.
With his second-quarter touchdown throw to Franks, Favre reached the 20-touchdown plateau for the 11th consecutive season, another record. He passed Dan Marino, who did it 10 seasons in a row.
Favre also extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 36, second to the 47-game run of Johnny Unitas.
Is anything out of Favre’s reach? His teammates say no.
“I call him a legend,” Driver said. “Because when it’s all said and done, I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I played with one of the greatest quarterbacks in the National Football League.”
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Start of Something Big
All-time leaders for consecutive quarterback starts:
*--* Name Team Starts Years BRETT FAVRE Green Bay Packers 200 1992-present RON JAWORSKI Philadelphia Eagles 116 1977-84 JOE FERGUSON Buffalo Bills 107 1977-84 PEYTON MANNING Indianapolis Colts 106 1998-present DAN MARINO Miami Dolphins 95 1987-93