Ones who stayed up late saw Favre's early exit

Ravens 48 Packers 3

Ravens & Nfl

December 20, 2005|By DAVID STEELE

Brett Favre put fannies in the seats at M&T Bank Stadium last night, and he put them on couches all over the country. He even filled seats in the press box, with national reporters from the Redskins-Cowboys game on Sunday sticking around an extra day.

No one wanted to miss Favre's network Monday Night Football farewell. And by halftime, the country was ready to say to Favre, Farewell. Please. We're begging you.

Viewers finally got their goodbye on the final play of the third quarter. Favre was taken out of a game he pretty much had thrown away, replaced by the first-round draft pick, Aaron Rodgers, for the first time in a miserable season. This, it's safe to say, isn't what the country was staying up late to see. Packers coach Mike Sherman gave it permission to go to sleep.

Had Kyle Boller had the game for the Ravens that Favre had for the Packers, he wouldn't have needed a psychiatrist's couch, he would have needed a police escort.

It was a big, long swallow of reality for everyone who still clung to the memories of the Favre from a few years ago. This is what it tastes like to be washed up - not the flavor of two Super Bowl trips and one win, of stunning rallies and emotional performances against all personal and professional obstacles.

This was the Favre that Adalius Thomas has said last week that he wanted the Ravens to unveil. "Everybody's talking about Brett Favre like he's just the greatest thing ever to walk the earth," he said. "That's kind of getting on my nerves."

Thomas must have known something, either about his defensive mates or about the man behind the curtain. He knew the rep, but he also can read stats: 22 interceptions going into the game, most in the NFL by far. Gunslinger, maybe, but one that hits a lot of windows, chandeliers and bar mirrors.

Give the Ravens credit, though. No one anywhere (not even in these pages) will ridicule this latest win for having come against a third-stringer. Favre may have played like one, but the name will always look good on the resume, even if his game doesn't match it.

Meanwhile, Boller's game stood up on its own as one of his best ever, especially in light of last week's debacle in Denver. Compared with Favre, Boller was, well, the Favre everyone remembers.

The Favre everyone remembers was the one cheered by fans wearing purple and wearing green, with cheese on the head and without, during pre-game introductions. But the one they saw in action overthrew his receiver on the very first pass he threw last night. He whizzed one past his lineman's ear on his second pass, a chuck over a blitz that was flagged for intentional grounding.

The second possession featured a Favre pass so underthrown, so impossible for Donald Driver to catch, that Ed Reed, playing very deep, had to run up to go after an interception.

The Packers' best shot at a touchdown, with first down at the Ravens' 15, ended with Favre throwing in the direction of replacement tight end David Martin, who happened to be bracketed in the end zone by half the Ravens' defense (including, again, Reed). Favre is surrounded by a lot of backups these days, and last night, they had to resort to the backup for the backup at running back when his last reliable offensive help, Samkon Gado, left late in the first quarter with a knee injury.

That's been the most recent crutch for Favre, slightly steadier than his own Teflon reputation. It's helped a lot, unless you tend to actually look closely at the decisions he makes that his body can no longer deliver on.

The two interceptions are proof. On both, the Ravens' defensive backs might as well have been the intended receivers. On both, Favre just saw a player in white downfield and let it fly, the way he has for so many years when he could get it there no matter what was in his way.

Except that Samari Rolle settled under the first (with Chad Williams nearby just in case), and Deion Sanders - yup, Deion - chasing down the other one. Sanders had two steps, at least, on the receiver, the unfortunate Driver, who has seen passes sail away like that all season. Remember, this is a secondary that previously had two interceptions collectively all year.

At halftime, Favre's passer rating was 25.4. Boller has had ratings like that at halftime. It's unlikely that such a showing has ever left fans hungry for more. Favre, though? Why not? It's not as if he hasn't overcome 21-3 deficits before.

The faith went unrewarded. When he left, it was 34-3, and his last pass went in and out of Chris McAlister's hands. It was the other quarterback playing with confidence bordering on cockiness, and it was the legend hitting the other team's players right in the numbers.

It was hardly a passing of the torch, though. Good thing, too, because Favre would have thrown the torch two feet over Boller's head.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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