A little 4-closure for Favre
It all looked so familiar, and yet so strange. Brett Favre walking off the grass at Lambeau Field, fists raised in victory, photographers encircling him like a massive amoeba.
And then there were the boos, raining down from the upper reaches of this stadium he knows so well. Catcalls from Packers fans who once thought he could do no wrong.
“It was about what I expected, I guess,” the Minnesota quarterback said Sunday after throwing four touchdown passes to lead the Vikings to a 38-26 victory. “It was probably worse every time I took the field. But I consider it a good thing. It’s better than saying nothing, I guess.”
In fairness, the reaction was mixed to Favre’s first game at Lambeau in enemy colors. The boos seemed louder than the applause, but there were a lot of Green Bay fans who appeared to grudgingly accept his now playing for a bitter rival. At least a quarter of the people in the stands were wearing purple too, an odd sight in a place that’s typically an unbroken swath of green.
As most visiting teams do, the Vikings (7-1) stayed at the Paper Valley Inn in Appleton, Wis., about 30 miles south of Green Bay. It was the first stay there for Favre, who enjoyed home-field advantage here for 16 seasons.
The bus ride in?
“It was long,” he said. “I’d always thought, ‘Man, the visiting team, that’s a long way to have to come.’ I had to drive a mile when I was here.
“It didn’t seem weird until I got in near the pier. Everything was real familiar to me, obviously. Then came up Ridge [Road], I believe, and all the Packers fans were there. I saw some purple. And there was just a mixture of cheers, couple fingers . . . “
That drew a laugh in the jam-packed visiting-team interview room, where at least 18 cameras were focused on Favre at the podium. (A typical game might have three or four.) During the game, Fox trained one camera on the quarterback throughout -- even when he was simply sitting on the bench flipping through documents -- calling it the “Favre-cam,” and streaming it online.
Not only was Favre undisturbed by the comeback kerfuffle, but he thrived in it. In his two games against the Packers, he threw seven touchdown passes (three at the Metrodome last month, four at Lambeau) with no interceptions and no sacks. If he was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it.
Or, as Vikings Coach Brad Childress said, “He wasn’t in a fetal position by his locker or anything like that.”
Throughout the first half and into the beginning of the third quarter, it looked as if the Vikings were going to breeze to victory. They built a 24-3 lead, and their defensive front was relentless in its pounding of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He was dragged down eight times in the first game, and six more Sunday, bringing the Rodgers-Favre sack tally to 14-0.
But the second-year starter, who has turned his domain into a place Packers fans have affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood,” rallied his team. The Packers scored a field goal and three touchdowns in the second half -- two of those by UCLA alumnus Spencer Havner, a linebacker turned tight end -- and at one point late in the third sliced the deficit to four points. The Vikings pulled away with two touchdowns in the fourth, however, helped immensely by the spectacular returns of rookie Percy Harvin.
The Packers -- tied with Chicago at 4-3 and 2 1/2 games back in the NFC North -- did some good things, but did them too late.
“I just felt that the first half, everything we did wrong, they took full advantage of it,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said.
The way many Green Bay fans see it, Favre did them wrong before the ball was in the air. There were all sorts of T-shirts and signs -- Favre jerseys with red slashes through the No. 4, some reading “Traitor” and “Drama Queen” -- and, before the game, a plane dragging a banner that read, “Retire 4 Good.”
Scalpers outside the stadium were selling $72 face-value tickets for as much as $600, and fans of both teams gathered near a fenced area in hopes of catching a glimpse of players getting off the buses.
Then, there were the fans whose Favre loyalty crosses all borders, including the man and woman who held hand-drawn signs reading: “Welcome Home, Brett!” and “We Miss U Brett. Fans 4-ever.”
“Packer fans cheer for Packers first, I know that,” Favre said. “I hope that everyone watching in the stadium tonight said, ‘You know, I sure hate that that joker’s on the other side. But he does play the way he’s always played in his excitement and his passion for the game.’
“As long as I play, that’s not going to change. And I think that’s what people have admired about me throughout my career. That’s all I can do.
“What I’ve done here speaks for itself.”
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Venues of victory
NFL quarterbacks with the most victories at one stadium since 1970 (*active):
*--* QUARTERBACK TEAMS STADIUM WINS John Elway Denver Mile High Stadium 95 Brett Favre* Green Bay, Minnesota Lambeau Field 90 Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium 67 Dan Marino Miami Land Shark Stadium 60 Phil Simms New York Giants Giants Stadium 59 *--*
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