Ravens out to tattoo Favre's arm

Champs set to face `great' Packers QB

October 11, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Their target is one.

Their prime directive is one for the ages.

Raising the stakes of Sunday's game at Green Bay, Ravens coach Brian Billick has issued a challenge to his top-ranked defense, placing Packers quarterback Brett Favre in the cross hairs.

Their clash should prove to be part magical, part historical.

"Playing a Brett Favre, that's going to be one of the benchmarks for this team. How did you do against one of the game's great quarterbacks?" Billick said. "That's going to be a great challenge."

Favre, the only player in league history to win three league Most Valuable Player awards, is considered the best quarterback to face the Ravens' defense in the midst of its dominant two-year run.

He carries a long resume of excellence, throwing for 3,000 yards in an NFL record-tying nine straight seasons (1992-2000). He boasts a storied career of producing in the clutch with 20 game-winning comebacks in the fourth quarter. He leads with a gritty style by starting a remarkable 145 straight games.

While the Ravens respect Favre's past, they welcome their task of the present.

"He's definitely one of the greatest quarterbacks by far, but when you talk about our defense, I don't think that one man can beat us," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We know that. I think it's really going to be a benchmark for him to see how he compares up against our defense. Because at the same time, we're coming at him at all angles."

This intriguing matchup will challenge the Ravens' mantra.

Their defense stops the run and forces quarterbacks to beat them -- a test failed by the likes of Denver's Brian Griese and Tennessee's Steve McNair this season. But there isn't a more decorated quarterback out there than Favre.

The NFL's leading active passer, Favre has overcome nagging injuries to his throwing elbow and entered a regular season healthy for the first time since 1998. Through the first four games, he has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,062 yards.

"He's back to dominant quarterback form," Billick said.

The same has been said of the Ravens.

The league's top-ranked pass defense has limited teams to an average of 143 yards through the air, making six interceptions while giving up just two touchdowns. The Ravens have harassed quarterbacks relentlessly, sacking them once every 13 dropbacks.

"Everyone would like to go into a game and say it's possible to get 400 yards of offense and score three touchdowns," said Favre, who turned 32 yesterday. "But in reality, you might get seven [points], you might 10, you may get none. That doesn't mean that you don't show up. In a game like this, we have to stay on the field, try to drive the ball and come away with points."

Favre's style has a swagger similar to that of the Ravens' defense.

He will run to one side of the field and throw back across his body, making a risky pass into heavy coverage. If it's intercepted, he won't hesitate to take the same gamble.

"He figures, well, you got me last time, so the odds say I'm going to get you this time," Billick said. "That kind of fearlessness is something you have to account for."

Nevertheless, the Ravens will attack him.

"You make him make mistakes," defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "If you get pressure on him, he's just like anyone else."

In last week's 14-10 loss at Tampa Bay, Favre paid for flinching under such pressure.

Avoiding a rush early in the second quarter, Favre watched an underthrown pass get picked off and returned 98 yards for a touchdown. Favre came back two series later and hit Bill Schroeder for a 67-yard touchdown strike on a perfect throw between two defenders in zone coverage.

But Favre failed to come through in the end. His first pass after the Buccaneers' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter was intercepted when he tried to hit receiver Corey Bradford on a go route. Favre was rushed, and the ball was thrown too far inside.

Favre has thrown five interceptions in the past two games, tipping his main weakness.

"He's a great quarterback, but he'll throw touchdowns as well as he throws interceptions," Lewis said. "Understanding it that way, you can go in and have a good grasp on it."

The challenge between Favre and the Ravens' defense has a classic ring to it.

"When we look at their defense, there is not a weakness," Favre said. "But it doesn't mean they're unbeatable."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Even

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