Of Brett Favre’s(notes) NFL-record 488 touchdown passes, one he doesn’t remember is the same one that may be partly behind the cautious steps Kurt Warner(notes) is taking following his own post-concussion problems.
Favre and the surging Minnesota Vikings, playing like NFC championship contenders, look to defeat the reigning conference champs Sunday night in a matchup with an Arizona Cardinals team hoping to have Warner back after a one-game absence.
With the first snap he takes, the 40-year-old Favre will set the NFL record for consecutive games played by non-kickers at 283. He matched former Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall for the record last Sunday in a 36-10 win over Chicago.
He passed for a season-high 392 yards and three touchdowns, continuing what has been perhaps the season’s most compelling storyline. Thanks to Favre, the Vikings (10-1) have become a top candidate to succeed the Cardinals (7-4) as the NFC’s Super Bowl representative.
They’ll clinch the NFC North if they win Sunday and Green Bay loses to Baltimore on Monday night.
Largely a risk-taker through his career, Favre has become more of a game manager - he has three interceptions all season - while still making plenty of downfield throws to Sidney Rice(notes), Percy Harvin(notes) and Visanthe Shiancoe(notes).
“We know what we’re doing with the pass game. We trust what we’re doing with the pass game, the protection game,” coach Brad Childress said. “Let’s move it this way.”
Favre is hoping to avoid another late-season swoon like he had in 2008, when he had two TD passes and nine interceptions over the final five games as his New York Jets went 1-4 to miss the playoffs. He finished with 22 interceptions in a season that featured his career-high six touchdown passes in a 56-35 win over Arizona on Sept. 28.
A sore ankle didn’t stop Favre from tying Joe Namath’s Jets record for TDs in a game, among the many injuries he’s overcome to start an NFL-record 280 straight games.
One of the more notable health issues he’s had came with Green Bay in 2004, sustaining a concussion in the third quarter against the New York Giants. He came back two plays later and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass even though Packers doctors didn’t want him to go back into the game.
Warner started for the Giants in that contest - they won 14-7 - and said he talked to his counterpart after the game but Favre didn’t even remember the touchdown pass.
Warner suffered a concussion of his own in the second quarter of a 21-13 win at St. Louis on Nov. 22, causing him to miss last Sunday’s 20-17 loss at Tennessee. Warner said he plans to return after the Cardinals had a three-game winning streak snapped on Vince Young’s(notes) 10-yard TD pass as time expired, but he continues to experience lingering vision problems.
“It’s not a visual issue where I’m foggy, where I can’t see or I can’t focus on something,” he said, “but there’s a fogginess that’s kind of in and behind my eyes, or on top of my eyes. It’s something that’s just not right. It’s just not normal.”
Warner has passed all the necessary neurological tests, leaving his eye problem as the only remaining concern. He has been practicing but coach Ken Whisenhunt says it could be a game-time decision on who starts at quarterback.
Leinart helped Larry Fitzgerald(notes) become the second-fastest receiver to reach 500 receptions - in his 87th game - with his first catch of the second half. Teammate Anquan Boldin(notes) did it in 80 games.
Rice and Harvin, meanwhile, have developed into a dangerous duo of their own with Favre throwing them the ball. Rice has had a breakout season, catching 56 passes for 964 yards and four touchdowns, while Harvin has 42 receptions for 602 yards and five TDs as a rookie.
They’ve helped complement what was already an outstanding running game led by Adrian Peterson, who has 1,084 yards and 12 TDs. He had 165 yards to lead Minnesota to a 35-14 win at Arizona last Dec. 14.
When opposing linebackers and defensive backs crowd the line of scrimmage to play the run, that just opens up more opportunities for the Vikings passing attack.
Favre is having one of the best seasons of his career in the West Coast offense he knows so well from his years with Green Bay. In an unfamiliar system with the Jets last year, Favre appeared lost at times.
He hasn’t been intercepted in his last four games while throwing for 12 TDs.
“Any professional you ever find that’s worth his salt can take coaching,” Childress said, adding: “Brett’s been tremendous that way. The system has changed a little bit … but I think he’s got a pretty good mastery of what it is we’re doing right now.
“He’s all ears.”