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WEEK 3 IN THE NFL

Favre, Turner at opposite ends of the spectrum

September 24, 2007|Christine Daniels | Times Staff Writer

Brett Favre came back, Norv Turner came back, and lots of people who follow the fortunes of the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers loudly wondered, "Why?"

Did Favre still have it?

Did Turner ever have it?

Both questions were given a workout Sunday in Green Bay. And after Favre passed for three touchdowns to tie Dan Marino's career record and lead the Packers to a 31-24 triumph over Turner's Chargers, few were offering Favre the free (and awfully cheap) advice to "Do yourself a favor and retire now."

The same can't be said for Turner, who in three games accomplished what Marty Schottenheimer needed 16 to achieve in 2006: lose twice.

Considered a Super Bowl contender a mere three Sundays ago, the Chargers, now 1-2, would rank no higher than third if they were members of the NFC North. Considered pro football's worst division this side of the NFC West, the Not Formidable Conference's North Division has a 3-0 team in the Packers and a 2-1 team in the Detroit Lions. The Chargers did defeat the Chicago Bears, now also 1-2, but that 14-3 victory pales in comparison with Dallas' 34-10 drubbing of the Bears in Chicago.

Favre's third touchdown pass of the day, going to Greg Jennings with 2:03 left to erase a 21-17 San Diego lead, left Favre with 420 scoring passes, same as Marino. About a minute later, Favre had the ball on the Chargers' one-yard line and a chance to break the record, but instead stepped aside and handed to ball to rookie Brandon Jackson, who scored to make it 31-21.

The record can wait. The Packers, now 3-0 with a league-best seven-game regular-season winning streak, apparently cannot.

An intriguing sidebar to Favre's 418 . . . 419 . . . 420 countdown was how Marino might react to it. First Peyton Manning overhauls Marino's once-considered-to-be untouchable season touchdown record. Then Favre -- refusing to yield, budge or walk away -- stubbornly holds on to reach lofty 420.

Having watched Marino's body language on TV when questioned about his legacy during recent seasons -- Hey, Boomer Esiason! Duck! -- you suspect the proud ex-Dolphin isn't thrilled.

In Friday's Times, I joked about Marino interviewing Favre and being more interested in Favre's pursuit of George Blanda's all-time interception record of 277 (Favre is two away). Judging from my e-mail, Favre's interceptions total is a touchy subject among some of his fans. One reader, Chuck Cohen, sent me a lengthy statistical examination comparing Favre's 3.31 interception percentage with that of such Hall of Famers as Warren Moon (3.41), Dan Fouts (3.38), Jim Kelly (3.66) -- and Marino (3.02) -- and noting that although Favre "is a bigger gambler than most . . . he's really no more-interception prone than the average NFL quarterback."

If only Favre received that kind of protection from Packers offensive linemen.

(For the record, Marino was gracious about Favre's tying the record. On CBS' "The NFL Today," Marino said, "The thing about it is that he did it in a fashion where he came from behind, which he has done many times, in pure Brett Favre fashion to tie the record, which is outstanding. . . . To tie the record in that fashion, you have to feel good for him since he's such a great competitor.")

Meanwhile, Turner would like to know how to enlist that kind of defense. Right now, Grady Little's L.A. Fan Club could double-team all of Turner's diehard San Diego supporters -- and still have enough people left over to cater the affair.

Turner is 1-2 with a team that was 14-2 under Schottenheimer last season, with a roster many around the league consider the most talented. LaDainian Tomlinson, coming off an 1,815-yard MVP season, has netted 130 rushing yards after three weeks; in 2006, he averaged 113.4 yards a game. After finishing seventh in scoring defense in 2006, the Chargers have surrendered 69 points the last two weeks.

Turner's hiring by San Diego General Manager A.J. Smith was a rush job after the knee-jerk decision to fire Schottenheimer because Martyball's Quality-Guaranteed warranty seemed to expire every January. Smith changed coaches ostensibly because Schottenheimer couldn't take the Chargers to the next level. Now he's stuck with Turner, who is taking the club to another level, all right -- the level where teams never lose in the playoffs because they never reach the playoffs.

Tomlinson looked lost, and said as much, as he stood in front of the postgame interview-room audience, dressed, curiously, in the Packers' green-and-yellow colors. (Was this the consequence of a bet made with Donald Driver -- loser wears the other's teams colors?)

Yellow helmets once ruled this sport. Vince Lombardi's Packers made yellow the most-feared hue in the NFL, kind of turning the color's turncoat reputation on its ear.

But as we have seen during "Throwback Uniform" outings in Pittsburgh last week and in Philadelphia and Washington in Week 3, yellow has always had a home (if not universally welcomed) in this league.

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