That role went to Jason David, a rookie defensive back who stole the ball from one of Favre’s receivers to clinch a 45-31 win for Manning and the Indianapolis Colts over Favre and the Green Bay Packers
The superstar quarterbacks certainly did their jobs.
Manning threw for 393 yards and five first-half touchdowns. Favre threw for 358 yards and four TDs and the Packers rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit to within a touchdown.
But the play of the game was made by David and Nick Harper. David, burned all game by Favre, stripped Javon Walker after he caught Favre’s pass just across midfield and Harper returned it to the Green Bay 36.
That set up Edgerrin James’ 1-yard touchdown run with 1:49 left.
“You like to see that from a young kid,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “He had had a tough day. He got beaten on one coverage and kind of made a mistake on coverage on another assignment. But the thing you like about Jason is that he hangs in there and plays with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The game started with five touchdown passes in the first 11 minutes, three by Manning and two by Favre, a pace that would have added up to 175 points between them if they had kept going. Indianapolis threw 22 passes and did not have a running play in the first quarter as Manning and Favre aired it out.
Both quarterbacks enjoyed watching the other work—to a point.
“Because they were scoring too, we were right back on the field. That kind of kept us in our rhythm,” Manning said. “If they had run off a 20-play drive they might have really taken us out of our rhythm, but it was like ‘Score, get back on the field and score again.’ “
Added Favre: “From their standpoint, I’m sure they thought they could score every time and so did we.”
Asked what he thought about Manning, he joked: “You mean aside from throwing four touchdowns in the first quarter? I thought he was average. Nothing surprised me. I felt it would be that type of game, maybe a little more extreme than we thought.”
The game inevitably slowed down. The Colts (2-1) gained just 96 yards total in the second and third quarters and scored just 10 points in the second half after leading 35-17 at intermission.
Green Bay (1-2) scored on its first possession of the second half, a 65-yard drive capped by Favre’s 12-yard pass to Walker, who had the game of his life with 11 catches for 198 yards and three TDs.
Then the Packers forced Indianapolis to punt for the first time.
Mike Vanderjagt’s 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter made it 38-24. But Robert Ferguson’s 71-yard kickoff return set up Favre’s fourth TD pass, a 27-yarder to Donald Driver and it was 38-31.
The Packers got the ball again and were moving when David and Harper made the big defensive play.
Favre and Manning, the NFL’s most durable quarterbacks, had met just once, a 26-24 Packers win in Green Bay four seasons ago. This was Favre’s 192nd consecutive start, most in NFL history, and the 99th straight for Manning, the second-longest current streak.
“We talked a lot before the game,” Manning said. “I was out there early with my receivers and he was out with his.”
In between, Favre threw 36- and 79-yard TD passes to Walker. Manning added a 27-yarder to Stokley and 1 -yard TD pass to James Mungro in the second quarter. That made him the first quarterback since Minnesota’s Tommy Kramer in 1986 to throw five touchdown passes in a half.
Favre’s first TD pass made it his 28th straight game with one, tying him for third-longest streak with Dave Krieg. He also became the third quarterback with 4,000 completions; only Dan Marino and John Elway have more.
Manning is on track to get there, too.
^NOTES: Favre had his 50th career game with three or more touchdown passes and 17th with four. … Vanderjagt set a Colts record with his first field goal and now has 178. … The combined 52 points in the first half were the third most in Packers history. … Vanderjagt had to attempt the first extra point three times. He made the first, then missed after a personal foul penalty set the Colts back 15 yards. But the Packers were penalized for running into the kicker, and he made the third. … Colts safety Idrees Bashir left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return. … Packers LB Nick Rogers left with an ankle injury.