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Week 16 in the NFL

Rejuvenated Favre leads Packers

December 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The last time the Green Bay Packers visited Soldier Field, Brett Favre left in tears.

These days, the Chicago Bears are the ones who might want to cry.

Their playoff hopes dashed, the defending NFC champions (5-9) will try to derail their rival's quest to secure the NFC's No. 1 seed and home-field advantage. It's quite a letdown for a Bears team that had visions of another trip to the Super Bowl.

This season has also been quite a turnaround for Favre and the Packers (12-2). It was last New Year's Eve in Chicago when Favre led the Packers to a 26-7 victory and then, with tears streaming down his face, hinted he might retire.

"I was hoping this year that we were [rid of him]," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Favre countered: "I tricked him. That was all part of the plan."

Instead of settling into retirement, the three-time MVP found rejuvenation.

In his 17th season and with a young supporting cast, Favre has a career-high 67.1 percent completion percentage and is second in the league with 3,905 yards, meaning he will likely go over 4,000 for the fifth time.

Two more numbers stand out: 26 and 13.

That's how many touchdowns and interceptions he has. It's a stunning number for someone who threw more picks (47) than scoring passes (38) the previous two seasons, but he's taking fewer chances these days even if he became the NFL's career leader in interceptions.

That dubious mark aside, Favre set a few records worth celebrating this year.

He became the NFL's career leader in yards passing, touchdown passes and victories by a starting quarterback. And he's on pace to exceed his personal best of 4,413 yards set in 1995 and Lynn Dickey's franchise record of 4,458 yards set in 1983.

Perhaps the only time Favre has struggled lately was when someone asked him this week to name the 21 quarterbacks who have started for the Bears since he took over in Green Bay in 1992.

"I could probably name a pretty good bit because I consider myself a historian," he said.

Then, he took the challenge.

"Uh, let's see . . . [Jim] Harbaugh. [Rex] Grossman," he said.

Correct. And correct.

"McMahon, was he a starter? I don't think so," Favre said.

Jim McMahon left Chicago before Favre arrived in Green Bay, but they were teammates on the Packers.

"Peter Tom Willis, maybe? Is that one?" he wondered.

Someone mentioned Moses Moreno. "Yeah, him too," Favre said. "Henry Burris maybe?"

And don't forget Craig Krenzel.

"I wouldn't have guessed that one," Favre said. "I've heard the name, but I wouldn't have guessed that one. What's the other one, from Stanford? [Steve] Stenstrom. Was he one? There's one you guys didn't know. I'm struggling here. . . . Did Griese start against us?"


Brian Griese started his second game in the benched Grossman's place and threw for 214 yards with two touchdowns to lead Chicago to a 27-20 victory at Lambeau Field in October.

Now, it's Kyle Orton's turn.

With Grossman expected to miss the rest of the season because of a sprained left knee, Orton got his first start in nearly two years in Monday's 20-13 loss at Minnesota and was shaky.

He completed 22 of 38 passes for 184 yards, but was wild. Darren Sharper intercepted a long pass and took it into the end zone just past the two-minute warning, but more costly was what happened on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 35 late in the third quarter. Orton's swing pass to fullback Jason McKie sailed over his head, a curious call and poor execution.

Now, he's facing a team trying to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If they win their last two games, the Packers would need Carolina or Washington to beat Dallas.

"We've got a lot on the line just as well, and we're going to go out there and play," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "Momentum is key in this game, in the NFL."

The Packers started building it last season, when they won their final four games, and the Bears hope to follow a similar pattern.

"They're on a run," said Orton, who won 10 games as a rookie in 2005 while filling in for the injured Grossman. "They're playing great football right now, ever since the last four games of the season last year. They're a very stout defense. They've got great guys up front who can stop the run, and their secondary's probably one of the best in the league."

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