Favre and Away

Favre vs. Packers

Aaron Rodgers

Favre celebrates a 30-23 victory over his former team. Photograph: Morry Gash/AP

When Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy decided not to bring Brett Favre back to the team after hold outs and draft picks were exercised, you could almost sense the inevitable match up between these two entities. Favre wanted to be traded to the Vikings two seasons ago, which Thompson and McCarthy vehemently opposed. In fact, upper management made sure that if Favre intended to keep playing football, they would make it a painful transition for him. And after a mediocre season with the New York Jets, one may have thought that the Packers had won the battle.

But every battle is just a part of a bigger war, right? And here we are, just two short seasons since that decision to make Aaron Rodgers the franchise, with Brett Favre donning the purple, playing against his alma mater in the very dome he despised his entire career. For the first time, Packers fans were forced to make a choice. Do they honor the contributions Favre made to the Packers organization, literally lifting them up from the Don Majkowski era depression into Superbowl contenders and eventual victors? Or do the Packers fans eschew idolatry for visions of a future with a new, young talent?

The line was drawn, and the fans sided with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers team. Did you really think it would be any other way? I, myself, wondered who I would be rooting for… for a few seconds anyway. Once the ball was kicked off to Blackmon and the game under way, I was giddy with the prospect of the young Rodgers, who admitted his role as an understudy to Favre when he was the backup was icy at best, dethroning a veteran I had come to know, love and respect as a fan over my entire adult life.

And what a show it was. The game was 14-14 before you could blink, and it seemed both of these offenses were going to light up the Metrodome like the days when it was Cunningham to Moss vs. Favre to Freeman with Desmond Howard blazing just about every special teams play. But it didn’t take long for the growing pains on both sides of the ball to emerge. For the Packers, it was turnovers, trivial penalties and a weak offensive line; for the Vikings it was a lack of a running game and timing issues between Favre and his new receivers. Let’s give it to both defenses, however. For Green Bay to hold AD to 55 yards rushing, and for Minnesota to cause turnovers and stop the Packers on several red zone drives says a lot for the future of both teams.

But all-in-all, this was a great game for fans, and for Packers fans, it was the first time to hear the announcers gushing all over Brett Favre during a Packer game, but not as a Packer. Did I find it annoying? Not at all. Because Favre, unlike any player I can remember, commands a certain respect from his teammates and opponents, every time he sets foot on the field. Even Joe Montana was a fair-weather player to San Francisco when he left to become a Chief.

In the end, the Packers lost too many opportunites to put points on the board, and this was especially true in the red zone. Going for it on 4th and goal rather than kicking the field goal was a gutsy call that should have been overruled by the assistant coaches; Jared Allen is far too much of an animal to roll the dice against them. Another scenario, with the Packers on their own 1 yard line, led to a (surprise) Jared Allen sack and fumble. Upon review, it was not a fumble at all… but a safety instead. The fact that accepting a safety was one of McCarthy’s smartest decisions in the game says it all.

You can go to proper sports sites to get a much more articulate breakdown of the game, but I’ll leave you with this: Aaron Rodgers is every bit as talented as Brett Favre. Yes, he threw an interception last night, but he also outthrew Favre by more than 100 yards, throwing for 384 to Favre’s 271 (keep your eyes on Jermichael Finley, Fantasy Football readers).

Also worth mentioning: this is the fourth week in a row that Rodgers has been sacked, hurried, hit and everything else a defense can do to him (he was sacked 8 times last night, making that a league leading 20 sacks so far this season. It’s hard to throw for almost 400 yards without pressure, but for a player to put up those numbers with Jared Allen and co. in his face literally on every other play, has to deserve some note. He is a sharp, accurate passer with enough talent to sate fans and critics alike, if only he can get more time to throw. Chad Clifton returns soon, the Packers’ premier Offensive Lineman, so we will see if they can get their act together.

On defense, Dom Capers, Green Bay’s new defensive coach, has an entirely new scheme in place, which misutilizes some of the inherent strengths to the players (namely Mr. Three Point Stance Aaron Kampman and Mr. Bump and Run Al Harris).

The fact that Rodgers walks in the shadow of who will easily become one of football’s greatest legends, a legend who Rodgers backed up for three years, may be a blessing in disguise. Thus far he has flown under the radar of most analysts and speculators, ruled out as a talented but second rate Favre (literally, if Rodgers does anything remotely Favre like, such as throw off his back foot, the comparisons come out like ants to a Twizzler).

But if the Green Bay Packers can get healthy on the offensive line, and learn this new and promising defensive scheme, the rematch between Rodgers’ Packers and Favre’s Vikings may not be so fortunate for the Minnesotans next time around.

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