This was either about revenge against his old front office, or not. This was about showing Green Bay he could still play, or not. This was about antagonizing Packers exec Ted Thompson for not treating Favre as well as Favre expected, or not.
Brett Favre went 24 for 31 for 271 yards and three touchdowns against his former team.
(Tom Olmscheid/AP Photo)
Actually, everyone but Favre knew it was the former rather than the latter. He may have managed to convince himself though that Monday night, his new Minnesota Vikings against his old Green Bay Packers could be just another football game. Then he got to the team hotel Sunday and even he quit pretending.
"I was about as nervous as I've ever been going into a game," he said, even comparing it to playing the day after the death of his father back in 2003. "I had church at 3 o'clock today and I was throwing all kinds of prayers out.
"[I was thinking] 'man, I'm losing it.' "
In the 299th game of his career, a new experience delivered the most familiar of performances – a brilliant Favre leading his team to a 30-23 victory. Forget losing it, Favre Bowl I went to its namesake, the rematch comes Nov. 1 at Lambeau Field.
The uniforms were all mixed up but the play was something out of a decade ago. Five days from his 40th birthday, Favre went 24 for 31 for 271 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I feel like for anybody, you play better, you make better decisions not being nervous," Favre said. "I guess I was wrong. As much as I fought it today, I couldn't."
You can remain skeptical (as I do) of Favre's season-long prognosis, but there was little doubt about this one.
It was a performance right out of his peak, Favre making all the right throws, all the correct reads, all the proper decisions. This was no game management, no complementary role. On a night when Adrian Peterson was neutralized (55 yards on 25 attempts) and the Packers all but dared Brett to beat them, No. 4 came through.
He repeatedly threw downfield in a manner not seen in an entire calendar year – when as a New York Jet he tossed six touchdowns against Arizona. Monday, in front of an electric purple crowd, he wiped the ball all over the Metrodome, making fools of Packers defenders the way he once made fools of Vikings defenders.
Seventeen times Favre had suited up for Green Bay and defeated Minnesota. The sight of him in the uniform of the Packers' arch-rival remains an unforgiveable act of treason to some on the other side of the state border here.
As much as Favre wants to claim its just coincidence, the truth is he sought out a return to Minnesota in part to show Green Bay it was wrong to think he was done. Monday the message was delivered. His replacement in Wisconsin, Aaron Rodgers(notes), wasn't terrible, but he had a pick, a fumble and took eight sacks, including one in the end zone.
A Packers fan displays how he feels about Brett Favre playing for the Vikings.
(Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
Once again in this rivalry, Favre was the best quarterback on the field.
"I hope the Packers fans know how I feel," Favre said.
No one can ever be sure how Favre feels, or thinks, or believes. He's a conflict of contradictions; the only person who even tried to pretend this was just another game.
"It wasn't just another game," Peterson said. "The determination in his eyes, you could see it. He was focused, never out of tune. He had that will to win."
Winning is what built the Favre legend and with this victory he added a line to it, becoming the first quarterback to defeat all 32 NFL franchises. The first 31 came during his 16 seasons as a Packer, the last against them.
"Well, I guess you've got to be known for something," he joked to ESPN's Michele Tafoya.
The Vikings are 4-0, have the game's best running back, a killer defensive line (Jared Allen(notes) himself had 4.5 sacks) and suddenly a quarterback who can make downfield passes. Favre insists his throwing arm is now healthy, which wasn't the case for most of last season with the Jets. In fact, it was part of the problem.
"As the season went on I didn't make good decisions, I didn't play as good as I'd like," he acknowledged.
Monday he played as good as could be imagined. Vikings coach Brad Childress was most worried that Favre would play with too much emotion, fall into his habit of trying too hard and making unforced errors.
"You don't want your quarterback crying and slinging snot coming out of the locker room," Childress said.
Favre managed to avoid tears and snot, which can't always be said during his career. He even skipped pregame warmups to avoid – perhaps for the first time in his life – the predicted media circus. Postgame he actually acknowledged that being his teammate isn't easy because "I know it's been pretty crazy."
Across the Vikings locker room no one was complaining. Peterson was hailing Favre's presence as a "blessing." Owner Zygi Wilf was proclaiming that this is what "I was hoping to expect."
The Vikings' big gamble on an injured, fading, training camp-skipping quarterback was paying off. Brett Favre had found his old arm, finished off his old team and now had everyone thinking of the new possibilities in front of them.
Back in Green Bay revenge will still be sought, but over here this isn't just about soap operas anymore. It was dreams of a Super Bowl that were dancing through everyone's head.