Mike Holmgren helped turn Brett Favre into a star. Now he hopes to ruin the future Hall of Famer's renaissance season.
A second playoff win in four years over his former mentor and the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on Saturday will get Favre and the Packers back into the NFC championship game for the first time since Holmgren was their coach.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Green Bay -9 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Saturday's game, the over/under has been set at 42 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on Seattle +9 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
"Mike Holmgren has meant a lot, obviously, to my career," Favre said. "And that will never change."
While trying to prevent Seattle (11-6) from making its second trip to the conference title game in three years, Green Bay (13-3) looks to return for the first time since the 1997 season, when it reached a second consecutive Super Bowl. With a loss to Denver in that game and a first-round defeat the following year in what would be Holmgren's last as Packers coach, Favre has lost six of his last eight playoff games.
The 38-year-old quarterback, however, goes into this postseason with possibly the best team Green Bay has fielded this decade, and he's coming off arguably his best regular season since Holmgren was still with the Packers.
It seemed Favre's career was coming to a disappointing end following subpar seasons in 2005 and 2006 as Green Bay failed to post a winning record in either year. Instead, Favre proved he has plenty left, finishing among the league leaders this season in passing yards (4,155), touchdown passes (28) and completion percentage (66.5).
"I would say at this stage of my career - as opposed to '95 and '96, where you could say, 'We'll get 'em next year' - a lot can change in a year," Favre said. "If you look at last year and the previous year, yeah, it is an opportunity that is right in front of us that hasn't presented itself in quite a while."
This will be the 21st playoff game for Favre, breaking a tie with Steve Young for fifth-most all-time.
Favre's 11-9 postseason record includes only one win in his last five appearances, but the victory came against Seattle at Lambeau Field. That 33-27 overtime win on Jan. 4, 2004, is remembered most for Matt Hasselbeck saying after the coin toss at the end of regulation, "We want the ball and we're going to score!"
The Seahawks quarterback went on to throw an interception on the opening possession of overtime and Al Harris returned it 52 yards for the winning touchdown.
That's the only playoff game in his last eight in which Favre has not thrown an interception. In his last five postseason appearances, Favre has a mediocre 69.3 passer rating, throwing nine touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
"I don't think it factors in how he's played this year and what he's been asked to do in this offense," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Those are situations that he can learn from as an individual, but I don't think it affects our football team."
Favre won his first six playoff games at Lambeau before losing two of the last three, including a 31-17 defeat to Minnesota on Jan. 9, 2005, in Green Bay's most recent playoff game as he threw four interceptions.
He should be well rested for this matchup, with the Packers coming off a bye and Favre having played only three possessions in what amounted to a meaningless regular season finale against Detroit.
As Green Bay rested during the first round of the playoffs, the Seahawks beat Washington 35-14 last Sunday in a wild-card matchup behind another strong defensive performance.
Seattle held the Redskins scoreless through the first three quarters, and defensive backs Marcus Trufant and Jordan Babineaux put away the game with interception returns for touchdowns in the final 6 minutes.
"That's what the playoffs are all about. When it's time for you to come up big how are you going to show up?'' said safety Deon Grant, who had three of the Seahawks' NFC-high 20 interceptions this season. Trufant had seven.
Seattle was fourth in the NFL with 45 sacks - Patrick Kerney was second in the league with 14 1/2 - and had three more last week despite Kerney being constantly double- or triple-teamed. The Seahawks have 43 sacks in their 11 wins, compared to five in six losses.
Favre, though, was only sacked 19 times in 16 games this season.
"Brett, he can avoid a sack now," Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "They aren't worried about keeping everyone in, because (releasing them) just gives him more options. He sees it all. I don't think he's looking at his receivers. He looks to see where the blitz is coming from, then he knows where he's going with the ball."
Seattle likely needs Hasselbeck to at least match Favre's production because the Seahawks' running game has been inconsistent all season.
Former league MVP Shaun Alexander had a mediocre year, rushing for 716 yards and 3.5 per carry in 13 games, and Seattle has not had a 100-yard rusher since Week 3. Green Bay has not allowed one at Lambeau Field this season, holding opponents to 87.6 rushing yards per game and 3.4 per carry.
That could put more pressure on a banged-up Hasselbeck, who says he will be ready to go Saturday despite suffering a bruised thigh last week. He also has been bothered this year by bruised ribs, a strained oblique muscle, a strained quadriceps and a sore wrist.
"I don't even like to go in the training room anymore," Holmgren said after seeing Hasselbeck getting treatment Monday. "He's in this thing that you would swear ... I didn't even know it was him. His arm came out and (he said), 'I'm going to be OK. Don't worry.'"
However, relying on the passing game might not be ideal in the typically frigid conditions at Lambeau in January. The temperature is expected to remain in the 20s throughout the game and there is a chance of snow flurries in Green Bay, where the Packers were 7-1 this season.
"There was always the belief that the weather you get, that we will get probably, can affect the passing game more than the running game," said Holmgren, whose Seahawks went 3-5 on the road. "Yeah, we understand all this passing business, but when it comes down to December and January, you've got to be able to bang it around a little bit.'
"I understand that. And there is some truth to that."
The Packers have developed a much more reliable running game thanks to the surprising Ryan Grant.
He didn't take a snap his first two years in the league and did not take over as the Packers' top running back until the seventh game of the season, but he had 11 runs of 20 yards or more to tie for third-most in the NFL. Grant had five 100-yard efforts over his final 10 games and finished with 956 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
"We've talked about the difference between the regular season and the playoffs," Packers running backs coach Edgar Bennett said, "and I think this is when he can become even more 'Ryan Grant' and make a name for himself."
That's something Favre did during his days playing under Holmgren, and his legacy can only grow if he gets within one win of another Super Bowl appearance by beating Seattle.
"They're a good football team. It'll be a tough matchup," Favre said. "I'm glad we play them here, but that's not a shoo-in, either."
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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