INDIANAPOLIS -- Brett Favre looked like an old, beat-up quarterback as he limped back toward the Green Bay Packers' locker room after talking to reporters in the RCA Dome on Sunday evening. His left leg was wrapped -- he hurt his hamstring late in the Packers' 45-31 loss to the Indianapolis Colts -- and he said he is playing with an ailing left shoulder that makes even raising his arms over his head in a touchdown celebration painful.
"I'm not going to sit here and dwell on my injuries, but I've got a bad left shoulder,'' Favre said. "It's as simple as that. If it was my right one, I wouldn't be playing. I feel like Mel Gibson in 'Lethal Weapon.' It kind of wobbles around and pops out from time to time. As long as it pops back in, I'm okay. It's been hurting me about two years. With each day that passes, believe it or not, it gets worse and worse. I thought about having surgery this past offseason, but I decided against it. I figured every other time when I've had an injury, I'd say, 'Ah, I'll take this offseason and it'll be fine when I come back.' But when I started training camp, it actually felt worse.''
Fortunately for the Packers, Favre still plays like a quarterback in an extended prime of his career, at 34 and in his 14th NFL season. He completed 30 of 44 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns Sunday and kept the Packers competitive in a game in which they permitted Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to connect on 28 of 40 throws for 393 yards and five touchdowns.
"I hadn't seen Brett in three years,'' Colts Coach Tony Dungy said, "and I can't say that I miss him.''
This was quarterbacking at its best. Neither threw an interception. Favre, now 12-22 in the regular season in domed stadiums, was sacked only once, but that was one time more than Manning. The Packers have become a run-first team the past few seasons, featuring tailback Ahman Green, but Favre reminded everyone Sunday that he still can be the centerpiece of a quick-strike offense when the need arises.
"I'll be fine physically, to a certain degree,'' Favre said. "But I'd much rather get a win than worry about injuries and all that stuff. . . . If there was any bright spot in this game, it was that we can generate points in a hurry. At times, I think we've lost sight of that. To be a big-play offense like we were [Sunday] is encouraging. We scored 31 points and had a chance to score more.''
This week's chief concern for the Packers will be Favre's hamstring. He was kicked or kneed in the back of his leg on the Packers' second-to-last possession, he said, and was replaced by backup Doug Pederson for Green Bay's final drive.
"I didn't feel like he was able to protect himself enough to put him back out there,'' Packers Coach Mike Sherman said. "He certainly was lacking mobility. . . . He just felt some tightness in his hamstring. That's what he told me, and that's what the doctors told me.''
Favre said doctors feared the hamstring "may have popped," but he didn't think so. He said he expected to be "all right" for Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field. Sherman said today he also expects Favre to be ready to play against the Giants. Favre has started 192 consecutive regular-season games, the NFL record for a quarterback. The next-longest string in league history is Ron Jaworski's 116-game streak. The second-longest active streak is Manning's 99.
Counting the postseason, Favre has started 211 straight Packers games, a streak that began Sept. 27, 1992. He is the only athlete in the four major team sports to start every game for the same club since then. The other NFL teams have started 175 quarterbacks during that span.
Favre turns 35 next month, and has not set a timetable for retirement. The end of his career looked far, far away while he was on the field Sunday, but seemed quite a bit closer as he hobbled around afterward and described his aches and pains. He undoubtedly would like to reach another Super Bowl before he exits the sport. That seemed like a distinct possibility this season when the Packers looked so solid on both sides of the ball in winning at Carolina two weeks ago in the first Monday night game. But they followed that performance with a surprising loss at Chicago eight days ago, and their defense looked overmatched against Manning and the Colts.
"Everything they did worked,'' Packers veteran safety Darren Sharper said. "The no-huddle [offense of the Colts] added disarray to what we were trying to do.''
Sherman said of his defensive backs: "They were exploited by a great quarterback and a great receiving corps.''
But Sherman said the Packers defenders also did their part to aid the Colts, and he didn't use his secondary's injury problems as an excuse. This was to be the game in which cornerback Mike McKenzie returned to the starting lineup after his lengthy holdout in a contract dispute, but he hurt his hamstring in practice Wednesday and didn't play Sunday. McKenzie's replacement, Michael Hawthorne, missed part of Sunday's game after taking a blow to the head, Sherman said.
"When you're in situations like this, there are no excuses about injuries,'' Sherman said. "Other people have injuries. You just have to identify what happened and fix the problems. We have to re-examine everything we do as coaches, starting with me.''
The Packers undoubtedly will take a long, hard look at the approach of first-year defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. Slowik's blitzing schemes undid the Panthers in the opener. But now teams are ready for the approach. The Packers blitzed about 30 percent of the time Sunday, according to Sherman. Manning, predictably, made them pay.
"We had some hits on the quarterback early,'' Sherman said. "But he was talented enough and quick enough and decisive enough to get the ball out of there.''
The Packers also put their safeties near the line of scrimmage to stop the run even though Colts tailback Edgerrin James was playing with a strained hamstring. That left their cornerbacks in one-on-one coverage regularly, and Manning just kept passing. The Colts threw passes on their first 22 offensive plays. Manning threw touchdown passes on their first four possessions. He had 320 passing yards and five touchdowns at the end of a first half in which the Colts led, 35-17.
"It's not a good feeling as a head coach,'' said Sherman, who became Green Bay's head coach in 2000, never has had a three-game losing streak. "I just said at halftime, 'Let's get it fixed. Let's get it stopped.' It was better in the second half, but 35 points is hard to overcome.''
The Colts turned to James in the second half, as the Packers finally adjusted their defensive approach and backed their safeties off the line of scrimmage, and Manning slowed down considerably after the single-game NFL records of 554 passing yards and seven touchdown passes had seemed within reach at halftime.
"You think if you have five [touchdown passes at halftime], you ought to be able to have 10,'' Manning said. "But we started running the ball. We had some drops. Their defense did a good job. The main thing was to get the win.'' . . .
Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Colts was that they had two pass-catchers with more than 100 receiving yards apiece in the first half -- and Manning's top target, Marvin Harrison, wasn't one of them. Reggie Wayne had 137 of his 184 receiving yards in the first half, and Brandon Stokley had 101 of his 110 receiving yards in the first half. Manning and Harrison did combine for their 70th touchdown, 15 behind Steve Young and Jerry Rice for the most prolific duo in league history. Dan Marino and Mark Clayton combined for 79 touchdowns, second all-time. . . .
McKenzie asked to be traded even when he returned to the Packers, and the New Orleans Saints and perhaps the Dallas Cowboys seemingly have remained interested. Sherman would not say late Sunday whether this game made him increasingly wary of parting with his gifted but disgruntled cornerback.
"I'm not even considering that right now,'' Sherman said. "I'm more concerned about what happened to our team [Sunday].''
The Giants looked like a team in disarray when they opened the season with a lopsided loss at Philadelphia. The veterans seemingly were rebelling against the tough policies of Coach Tom Coughlin, and no one knew if quarterback Kurt Warner had anything left.
But the team has regrouped with two straight wins, putting the Giants halfway to their 2003 victory total under former coach Jim Fassel. Warner hasn't thrown an interception and passed for 286 yards in Sunday's 27-10 triumph over Cleveland at Giants Stadium. He had his second career rushing touchdown, just getting into the corner of the end zone before absorbing a heavy hit.
Even the in-house skeptics are coming around. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, after questioning his role in the offense last week, had five catches Sunday, two that provided important third-down conversions. And defensive end Michael Strahan, one of the Giants players fined for being early to a team meeting but not early enough to suit Coughlin, had a key fumble recovery on the play on which he returned to the field after having his injured left hand heavily wrapped.
The Browns were nearly as inept Sunday as the Giants' previous opponent, the Washington Redskins, had been the week before, and both wins were at home. Road tests at Green Bay and Dallas loom next. Still, the Giants no longer look like one of the league's worst teams, at least at this point, and Coughlin's discipline is having an effect on their play: In their two wins, they have had one turnover and opponents have had 10. . . .
Strahan's hand was X-rayed, and the Giants did not immediately announce the results. He had a sack and two fumble recoveries after getting hurt. . . . .
Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia, a week after posting a 0.0 passer rating in a loss at Dallas, was sacked four times and threw an interception Sunday. He completed 21 of 31 throws for 180 yards and a cosmetic touchdown with 31/2 minutes to play, and had an 80.0 passer rating.
Grossman Done For Season, Gannon For At Least Six Weeks
Bears quarterback Rex Grossman will miss the rest of the season because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, according to the club, and Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon will be sidelined for at least six weeks after a broken vertebra in his neck was found.
It was a rough Sunday for quarterbacks. A week after Pittsburgh lost starter Tommy Maddox, Chicago lost Grossman, Oakland lost Gannon and Tennessee lost Steve McNair. Grossman will be replaced by Jonathan Quinn as Chicago's starter. Grossman was hurt late in the Bears' defeat to Minnesota on Sunday.
Gannon was knocked from Sunday night's win over Tampa Bay by a hit by Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks that seemed to wrench the quarterback's neck and back. Gannon was walking and Raiders Coach Norv Turner said during a news conference today that he did not believe the quarterback was at any risk for paralysis. But Turner indicated that Gannon will be sidelined for six weeks and perhaps longer. The 2002 league most valuable player ended last season on the injured reserve list because of a shoulder injury.
The Raiders lose little with Kerry Collins taking over for Gannon. Even if Gannon had been healthy this week, Collins perhaps could have kept the starting job after engineering Sunday's win.
McNair was taken to a hospital for tests after suffering a bruised sternum in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to Jacksonville. The Titans have a backup, Billy Volek, who was a hot commodity on the free-agent market last offseason and is regarded by some NFL executives as a clone of the Panthers' Jake Delhomme. . . .
Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's string of 64 straight starts ended Sunday when he sat out after aggravating a pulled hamstring in practice last week. It was the first game missed by Urlacher, who's in his fifth NFL season. The Bears thought they'd have him in the lineup even after he reinjured the hamstring that he hurt at the outset of training camp, but started Hunter Hillenmeyer at middle linebacker when Urlacher couldn't go. . . .
The Eagles are 3-0 after Sunday's win at Detroit, but injuries continue to mount. Fullback Jon Ritchie will be sidelined for the rest of the season because of a torn left anterior cruciate ligament. He joins defensive end N.D. Kalu, tailback Correll Buckhalter and rookie guard Shawn Andrews on the shelf; those three keys Eagles players also have suffered season-ending injuries since training camp. Guard Jermane Mayberry tore his biceps Sunday but might not miss any games. Tight end L.J. Smith also could play this week despite hurting his shoulder Sunday. . . .
Tampa Bay tailback Charlie Garner likely will be sidelined for the remainder of the season after tearing a patellar tendon during Sunday night's game.
R. Williams Excels
The Lions didn't put up much of a fight against the Eagles but Detroit wide receiver Roy Williams had another eye-catching performance and is threatening to make the race for rookie-of-the-year honors a runaway. Williams had nine catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns Sunday and has 17 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns in three games. . . .
Raiders fans gave wide receiver Tim Brown a warm ovation Sunday night after his 100th touchdown catch. It was Brown's first touchdown reception for the Buccaneers after 99 for the Raiders. . . . The Lions will be without rookie tailback Kevin Jones for two to four weeks because of the sprained ankle he suffered Sunday.