Brett Favre played the finest game of his career Monday, one day after his father’s death.
He will be on the field again as the Green Bay Packers try to do their part to win the NFC North and get home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs when they face the playoff-bound Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field.
Favre returned to the Green Bay Packers on Friday, two days after his father’s funeral, and the focus for himself as well as his teammates was squarely on football.
“Obviously, he had some catching up to do,” Packers coach Mike Sherman said following the afternoon workout. “But, he’s been doing this for quite a long time. So, he probably had less catching up to do than most players would.”
Favre passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns, moving into second place in NFL history for career TD passes while leading the Packers to a 41-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night.
The 13-year veteran finished with a career-best 154.9 passer rating after learning that his father Irvin died of a heart attack or stroke Sunday night while driving near his hometown of Kiln, Miss.
“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” said Favre. “I didn’t expect this kind of performance, but I know he was watching tonight.”
Favre passed Fran Tarkenton on the NFL’s career list with his 343rd TD throw and finished the game with 345, trailing only Dan Marino’s 420. He also started his 205th consecutive game, an NFL record among quarterbacks.
The three-time MVP flew home Tuesday for his father’s funeral at St. Paul Catholic Church in Pass Christian, Miss., on Wednesday.
Sherman attended the service with backup quarterback Doug Pederson.
“They are a very strong family,” Sherman said Wednesday. “Brett has a very strong Packer family as well back in Green Bay who will support him and be there for him also.”
The Packers need a win to do their part in several possible scenarios. Green Bay is tied with Minnnesota atop the NFC North and clinches the division with a win and a Vikings loss. The Packers will make the playoffs if both they and the Dallas Cowboys win or if Seattle loses.
Packers team president Bob Harlan is confident in his quarterback’s ability to bring his best against the Broncos.
“I think Brett plays a lot on adrenaline, though, and I think Sunday when Denver is here, he’ll be back to his old competitive self,” Harlan said Tuesday.
“But he’s going to go through so many ups and downs these next few days. I just feel sorry for him. I know how terrible it is to get that call,” added Harlan, who, like Favre, was 34 when his father died of a heart attack in 1972.
Favre got plenty of help Monday from his teammates, who played with incredible passion for their quarterback to help the Packers to their third straight victory and fifth in six games.
Ahman Green ran for 127 yards and a score, Javon Walker had four catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had three sacks while cornerback Michael Hawthorne had two interceptions.
“I’ve never seen a leader or a player like Brett in my career, and I’m pretty sure that nobody else in this locker room has,” tight end Wesley Walls said. “I think we wanted to make him proud.”
The Broncos clinched their first playoff berth since 2000 as they shut down the Indianapolis Colts for their fourth straight win, 31-17 on Sunday.
Running back Clinton Portis, the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,591 yards, sat out with a sprained right knee and ankle but watched as backup Quentin Griffin rushed for 136 yards and quarterback Jake Plummer ran for two scores.
“I think I’m playing for my job,” said a smiling Portis, who will rest against the Packers to be ready for the playoffs. “These guys went out and played great.”
The win completed an improbable playoff run after the team fell to 6-5 a month ago. The Broncos will make just their second playoff appearance since John Elway retired following their 1998 championship season.
Plummer has been every bit as important to the Broncos this season as Elway was to Denver’s Super Bowl teams in ’97 and ’98. The Broncos are 9-2 and average 395 yards and 28 points per game in Plummer’s starts this year. He missed four games with foot and shoulder injuries and Denver went 1-3 and averaged just 17 points and 258 yards.
“He can make plays,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “We all knew what John (Elway) could do, in the pocket making plays when nothing’s there. Jake has that ability to scramble, throw on the run and make the big-time plays that you look for in a top-notch quarterback.”