Monday, January 21, 2008

Nightmare ending for Favre and the Packers

After Lawrence Tynes missed his second field goal chance in a row in the fourth quarter to try and give the Giants the lead, the Packers seemed destined to head to the Super Bowl.

Not surprisingly, they won the coin toss and appeared ready to march down the field and steal the game from the Giants.

Unfortunately for the Packers, though, Brett Favre wasn't up to the task in overtime. His second interception of the night, this one to Corey Webster, put the Giants in position for a third attempt for Tynes, and this time he didn't miss.

Before the NFC Championship loss, Favre's play had been one of the highlights of the season. He seemed rejuvenated as he led the Packers to a 13-3 regular season mark. Favre threw for 4,155 yards and 28 touchdowns. He cut down on his interceptions and threw 15 of them, down three for 2006 and down 14 from 2005. He also managed to complete 66.5% of his passes, the most during his career, while also averaging a career-high 7.8 yards per pass attempt. His quarterback rating of 95.7 was his highest since 1996, when the Packers went on to defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

As Favre continued his inspired play, others stepped up around him. Ryan Grant, who was traded to the Packers from the Giants earlier this season, emerged from obscurity to steady the Green Bay rushing attack, and receivers like Greg Jennings and James Jones allowed the Packers to spread the field in five wide receiver sets. The defense also improved tremendously, led by the play of cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Pro-Bowl selection Al Harris.

But what had been so successful for the Packers during the regular season left them when they needed it most. Grant rushed 13 times for a meager 29 yards. Jennings caught just one pass for 14 yards. James failed to record a reception. And Harris, shadowing Plaxico Burress for most of the night, was beaten time after time as Burress caught 11 passes for 154 yards.

Favre seemed to put up respectable numbers: 19/35 for 236 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. But 90 of those yards came on one play, where the cornerback covering Donald Driver fell down, allowing Driver to coast to the endzone.

Besides that play, Favre looked more like the quarterback of the last few seasons, the one who threw passes up for grabs and didn't take care of the ball.

Favre was right, though, when he said after last season that he fully believed this team was one of the most talented that he had ever played with. But they aren't talented enough to play that poorly at home in the playoffs and still win against another very good team. If Favre does come back next year, then he'll have to be the one who steps up when they need him the most.

Sure, the weather was a significant factor and effected the outcome. But it didn't seem to bother Eli Manning as he led his team to its third straight postseason win on the road. And now they're going to the Super Bowl.

(It's even stranger to say that out loud. What a weird season.)

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