Favre too gifted for Ravens to give him presents, too

October 15, 2001|By Mike Preston

GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Ravens' defense took the wrong day off.

Your secondary can't take coffee breaks against the most athletic quarterback since John Elway. Your defensive line can't take siestas when it is supposed to provide a pass rush against one of the league's most elusive performers. Your coaching staff can't be out-coached, giving one of the league's most gifted players countless opportunities.

The Ravens strutted into Lambeau Field yesterday with all the bravado in the world and the league's No. 1 defense, and left humbled by the Packers and their all-but-certain Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, who ripped the Ravens apart in a 31-23 victory.

Favre was at his phenomenal best, completing 27 of 34 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He had receptions to nine receivers, including completions of 47, 37 and 47 yards. He completed passes in the pocket, on the run and then had some that still left the Ravens in awe after the game. He finished with a rating of 137.4, which is nearly perfect.

By the way, anybody see Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis yesterday?

Favre made him and the Ravens' secondary disappear in the greatest vanishing act performed by a magician since Houdini.

"Brett loves to run around," Ravens safety Rod Woodson said. "If his legs don't beat you, his arm will. He is going to run around and throw the football. Once he gets out of the pocket, it's backyard football. Those receivers are going everywhere, and you've got to plaster up. But we weren't plastering up in the secondary or with the linebackers."

There were times when the Ravens were matched up, but Favre just made great throws. Actually, unbelievable throws, the type that only he and St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner can make. Like that 14-yard dart he jammed in between safeties Corey Harris and Woodson to Bill Schroeder late in the first quarter or the 37-yard completion he slung to Donald Driver late in the third quarter.

Favre also threw with great touch, like that 47-yard completion to the outstretched fingers of Corey Bradford down the right sideline in the second period. And then there were times he rolled to his right to elude pressure and threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Bubba Franks and 8 yards to Antonio Freeman.

"He was on fire," Ravens strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware said. "They did an excellent job of executing, throwing and catching the ball. There were a lot of little things we didn't do right, and a quarterback like Favre is going to capitalize on them. They have a great offense."

The Ravens shouldn't feel too ashamed. Favre has embarrassed a lot of teams at home. He has the highest winning percentage on home turf of any quarterback in the league since 1950 - 62-11. But the Ravens' cornerbacks shouldn't have been so lethargic against the Green Bay receivers.

Cornerback Chris McAlister was Public Enemy No. 1. He got beat on an out, a skinny post, a straight fly. ... The Packers made up routes because they ran out of ones to beat McAlister on. Fellow cornerback Duane Starks wasn't as bad, but he kept letting Freeman post him up like Shaquille O'Neal in the end zone.

They got exposed by one of the best quarterbacks in league history, who took it as a personal challenge to compete against one of the best defenses ever. Favre answered the bell; the Ravens didn't.

"I take the responsibility, and Duane will step up and take it, too," McAlister said. "He gave us what we expected and a little bit more."

Favre even gave the Ravens dancing lessons, too. When they did manage to get some occasional pressure, he showed defensive ends Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett his Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly moves.

But Ravens coach Brian Billick should have taken some notes, too. That Packers' offense was really a West Coast offense. Green Bay ran short and intermediate crossing and delay routes across the middle. They ran clearing patterns and performed basketball-type picks on the Ravens.

This team had a game plan and a purpose. The Ravens call their offense West Coast, but it's really helter skelter. The unit committed four turnovers, which were four more chances for Favre.

Green Bay had the Ravens off-balance all day. The Packers threw on first down and ran on third. The four- and five-receiver sets weren't new. Chicago, Tennessee and Denver tried it, but they didn't have Favre.

"We had an excellent game plan," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "We were in a lot of shotgun and a lot of new type of runs out of the shotgun that we haven't employed very much lately, and it put him [Favre] in a very comfortable position to see the field at different times. Other people had spread them out, and I think a lot of the reason why it worked was No. 4."

That's Favre's number.

He had the Ravens' yesterday, so much, in fact, that Billick seemed to get a little irritated by all the questions about Favre's performance.

"I hope we never play them again. We couldn't beat them," Billick said sarcastically.

It was uncalled for, but sometimes even a genius gets outsmarted. But the Ravens will rebound. Let's put this all in perspective. The team has played three, tough emotional games in a three-week span, two of them on the road.

Yesterday, they ran into one of the game's best quarterbacks, who decided to have a little barbecued Raven on the menu.

"Don't be shocked, there is no panic," Lewis said. "Every dog has his day. We could go back and play them again, and it would probably be different. But it's not about that, it's about going on to the next game."

The Ravens need to move on. One day of Brett Favre was just too much.

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