- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre said he doesn’t believe much in the supernatural or in outside forces. And yet. …

“There’s something going on here,” Favre said Sunday after the Packers made the playoffs via a fluke, which followed his personal display of grit and courage a week earlier.

A team of destiny thing seems to be going on here.

The Packers play Seattle at home in an NFC wild-card game tomorrow because the Minnesota Vikings needed to beat the lowly Arizona Cardinals last week to make the playoffs (and keep the Packers out) and couldn’t. Not only that, it took a miracle. The Vikings gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes, the last one on fourth-and-25 on the game’s final play, which was so close it had to be reviewed.

Meanwhile, the Packers were playing a playoff-bound Denver team that rested several starters and pretty much didn’t care. Green Bay won 31-3 to take NFC North.

But the true source of any magical, mystical happenings, if that’s what they are, is Favre, who nearly two weeks ago surmounted the greatest of personal challenges by playing, under the circumstances, the best game of his long and brilliant career.

The league’s only three-time MVP, a winner of a Super Bowl, owner of a consecutive-game streak for quarterbacks that might live forever and generally considered one of the best to play the position, Favre lost his father, Irvin, on Dec. 21, the day before the Packers were to play the Raiders in Oakland.

Irvin Favre died of a heart attack while driving near the family hometown of Kiln, Miss. He was 58, and he and his son were close. Brett said his father attended every one of his games since fifth grade. Irvin Favre coached his son in high school. “He was so instrumental not only in football but in life,” Brett Favre said.

Despite the shock and grief, Favre traveled with the team to Oakland. When he took the field, the normally wacko Raiders fans gave him a respectful ovation. Then, playing on “Monday Night Football,” starting his 205th straight game to extend his record, Favre played the game of his life. He completed his first nine passes and threw for 311 yards in the first half. He ended up 22-for-30 for 399 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions as the Packers won 41-7.

Favre did this while wearing a splint to protect a right thumb that was fractured Oct. 19.

After the news of Favre’s father broke, the Packers family instantly responded with comfort and support. No one knows better than his peers, teammates and coaches what a tough guy Favre really is. To play as long and as well as he has, without missing a game, speaks for itself. But how he responded after his father’s death was uncharted territory. No one had seen anything quite like it.

“For him to come out and play this game, he’s a better man than most of us on this team,” Packers receiver Donald Driver told Packersnews.com.

Guard Mark Wahle said he thought in the first half that he would never wish such a situation upon a person, “but in 10 years I’m going to be pretty damn proud I was part of this game.”

Speaking for literally everyone, Wahle added, “It’s just unbelievable. I just can’t believe he went out and did what he did today. You know, you’re so sad for him, but you’re so damn proud of him. … So heroic. You can’t really say enough about it.”

Favre said afterward, “This is an extended family. I know I’d be lost without them. I was just pleased I was able to play and give a great effort. When the guys gave effort like they did and support me, I can’t help but be proud of that.”

Favre and his wife, Deanna, left immediately after the game. The funeral was two days later. According to news accounts, 500 people, including Packers coach Mike Sherman, gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Pass Christian, Miss., to hear the Rev. John Ford say, “I did not come to give a eulogy for Big Irv, folks. If you want to see a eulogy for Irvin, go back to the game his son played on Monday night. That was the best possible eulogy.”

After the service, Favre returned to Green Bay, practiced for one day and carved up the Broncos.

He said he felt like his dad was watching.

“I’m numb, to be perfectly honest with you,” Favre said last week. “I’ve cried as many tears as I could possibly cry. I’m so proud of this team and what we’ve been able to overcome.”

Maybe because of the thumb, Favre threw 21 interceptions this year, his highest total since 1999. But he also threw 32 touchdown passes to lead the league for a fourth time. Only Johnny Unitas, Len Dawson and Steve Young did that. At 34, in his 13th NFL season, all but one in Green Bay, he is playing as well as he has all year. And so are the Packers, who a month ago were 6-6 and seemed in danger of missing the playoffs. They have since won four straight.

Ahman Green, who ran for almost 1,900 yards, provides Green Bay with a major weapon. The offensive line is protecting Favre, and the defense, which will never scare anyone, has tightened up. But the Packers’ fate is usually determined by Favre himself, who this week shed the thumb splint.

“He’s not only a teammate. This is Brett Favre,” center Mike Flanagan said recently. “He is the Green Bay Packers. He’s us, and we’re him.”

• The Associated Press contributed to this report


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