To beat Vikes, Packers must sack FavreGREEN BAY, Wis. — He used to be the face of the franchise.
By: By CHRIS JENKINS, The Daily Republic
GREEN BAY, Wis. — He used to be the face of the franchise.
Now the Green Bay Packers would like nothing more than to see Brett Favre get a face full of turf at Lambeau Field on Sunday night — within the rules, of course, under heightened NFL scrutiny of helmet-to-helmet hits.
The Packers have faced their former quarterback twice since he joined the division rival Minnesota Vikings. The guy who led Green Bay to its only post-Lombardi Super Bowl win scorched them both times, as the Packers failed to sack Favre even once.
“It’s the reason why we didn’t win,” Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “You’ve got to hit Brett. You look at all the teams that beat the Vikings, and it all came down to the same thing. They all got pressure on him. So we realize we do have to get pressure on him. Got to make it uncomfortable for him.”
Things already seem pretty uncomfortable for Favre these days, at least off the field.
While the Favre-returns-to-Lambeau anticipation isn’t quite as intense as it was last year, Favre is now the subject of an NFL investigation into allegations that he sent lewd photos and suggestive messages to a female Jets employee in 2008 during his one season with New York.
Favre has refused to address the allegations, which were posted on the website Deadspin, other than to say the league’s investigation will run its course and he is focused on playing the Packers.
“I’m reluctant to say I’m excited about coming back,” Favre said. “I know how tough it is to play there. But it’s a huge challenge and we need a victory.”
Both teams came into the season with Super Bowl expectations but injuries have played a role in their disappointing starts. The Vikings are 2-3 and haven’t won on the road since beating the Packers at Lambeau last Nov. 1.
The Packers are 3-3 and coming off two straight overtime losses. To get back on track, they’ll have to put Favre on his back.
Since Minnesota’s loss to New Orleans in the NFC Championship game, the book on defending Favre has gone something like this: If you can beat him up, you can beat him.
“That’s what it seems like, looking at the film and watching some of the games I’ve seen on him,” defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said.
Favre, who has been sacked 13 times in the Vikings’ first five games, acknowledges he’s taking a beating.
“I feel like I can endure it as long as something’s not broken or torn or whatever,” Favre said. “Do I like it? I’d much rather not get hit, but I think that’s part of my M.O., being able to withstand that and come back and make plays and not be concerned about it. If I spend more time worrying about who’s coming free, it’s going to be hard to complete passes and make plays.”
And while getting hit isn’t pleasant for any player, especially a 41-year-old with nagging injuries, Favre says he doesn’t mind as long as the Vikings are winning.
“It always feels a little bit better if you win,” Favre said. “I can’t be concerned about it. I know that our guys, no one wants to let a guy come free or get beat.”
That wasn’t a concern for the Vikings against the Packers last year. Generally free from pass rush pressure, Favre completed 69.5 percent of his passes in two games for 515 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Packers have been a pretty good pass-rushing team so far this season, but didn’t manage a sack in an overtime loss to Miami last Sunday. They were without NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews, who returned to practice this week after sitting out with a hamstring injury.
“The guy, he’s something else, man,” Pickett said. “We definitely need him. Our defense is not the same without him.”
But defensive coordinator Dom Capers warns that the Packers can’t go all-out to put pressure on Favre. They can’t ignore Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin — and now Randy Moss.
“You just have to understand, what’s the value and what point in the game in terms of how much you’re going to pressure as opposed to how much you’re going to cover,” Capers said. “And yeah, you’d always like to keep the quarterback to where you can force him into making poor decisions and that type of thing. But they’ve got a lot of other weapons. If you start zeroing in on Brett Favre, the next thing you know, (there go) Peterson and Moss and Harvin.”
Meanwhile, the Packers have to do a much better job protecting Aaron Rodgers, who managed to remain productive despite getting sacked a stunning 14 times in two games against the Vikings last year — although veteran left tackle Chad Clifton didn’t play in either game.
“Those two games were particularly the worst that we have ever experienced or probably I have ever experienced in my career,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re a little healthier this year with our offensive line. Our offensive line is playing at a higher level. Also, our quarterback has another year of experience. But we’ve got to take care of their front four.”
The focus will once again be on Favre once he takes the field. And while he acknowledges he didn’t like being booed by Packers fans last year, he’s ready for another unfriendly welcome.
“That fan base is as good as any in all of sports, that’s no secret to anyone,” Favre said. “No one loves their football more than Packers fans. It was a response that obviously I was hoping not to have, but that’s the way it went. And I’d like to think still deep down inside that people would think differently if it hadn’t been the heat of the moment.”
AP Prediction: Packers, 23-21