A visit to Candlestick Park does wonders for Favre—and given the way he played, this might not even be his last trip to San Francisco.
Favre carved up Candlestick again, passing for 293 yards and hitting Donald Driver for a 68-yard touchdown as the Packers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 30-19 victory over the slumping San Francisco 49ers.
Playing in the waterfront stadium that hosted some of his greatest playoff performances, Favre was steady and fearless while breathing life back into the Packers (5-8), who had been floundering on offense since early November.
Favre has won 11 of his 12 meetings with the 49ers over 15 years, throwing a TD pass in each game—and rarely looking better than he did in this one.
“It wasn’t a championship game, it wasn’t a playoff game, but I’ve grown to appreciate these more and more,” said Favre, who went 22-for-34 and surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the 15th straight season to extend his own NFL record.
“There may have been times in my career when I took these games for granted, but these wins are much harder to come by now. I don’t want to sound crazy, but this one means as much as any of them, just because of circumstances.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the coordinator for San Francisco’s awful offense last season, but he came up with plenty of ways to embarrass former boss Mike Nolan’s defense—and Favre executed nearly all of them. Ruvell Martin also caught a long TD pass, and Driver had nine catches for 160 yards.
“Brett Favre has done this so many times,” 49ers linebacker Brandon Moore said. “We just gave up big plays, and whenever (Favre) can feel comfortable in the pocket, he’s going to make things happen.”
Both storied franchises’ playoff hopes are all but extinguished, yet the 37-year-old quarterback and his receivers reclaimed their groove in a familiar spot.
Favre led the Packers against Steve Young’s 49ers in four straight postseasons in the late 1990s, with Favre winning three matchups—including two at Candlestick Park. Young, the 49ers’ honorary captain for this game, finally beat the Packers on a last-second pass to Terrell Owens in January 1999, besting Favre’s gritty 292-yard effort.
The Packers’ 38-10 loss to the Jets last week had Favre contemplating retirement, as every loss does. But this big game reminded the quarterback how much he loves the game.
“Days like today make me think I could play 10 more (years),” Favre said. “After last week’s game, I would have told you I should get the first bus out. … I’m happy with today. It sure makes it easier to say the right things and do the right things. It makes you go home and say, ‘Man, I could do this for a while.’ “
While the Packers were rejuvenated, the 49ers are back in the dumps. They’ve lost three in a row after a three-game winning streak.
Frank Gore rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown for the 49ers (5-8), but Alex Smith was just 12-of-29 for 201 yards and two interceptions while facing constant harassment. Rookie tight end Vernon Davis turned a short pass into a late 52-yard touchdown, but San Francisco lost its third straight.
“I don’t think our energy was there,” said Antonio Bryant, who had only one catch for 39 yards. “We were kind of flat. Our crowd was there. Everybody was into it. The momentum kept swinging. We had two opportunities with great field position (at) about the 50, and we didn’t capitalize on it.”
Driver made the game’s most spectacular play after Smith threw a terrible interception to waste such field position midway through the third quarter with San Francisco trailing just 17-13.
The receiver ran under Favre’s long pass, then eluded a tackle and reversed his field before outrunning three defenders to the end zone, where Favre picked him up in a bear hug after sprinting down the field.
“My biggest thing is I want to be part of (Favre’s) legacy,” Driver said.
Nolan, who wore his suit-and-tie ensemble for the second time this season, made two successful challenges. The first erased a long catch by Greg Jennings, who was out of bounds on the Packers’ opening drive, and the second improved an unfavorable spot on Smith’s dive near the goal line, setting up Gore’s third-quarter TD. … RB Ahman Green scored his 67th touchdown for the Packers, surpassing Sterling Sharpe for third place in franchise history.