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NFL

Favre has sentiment on his side vs. Eagles

But his Packers have to beat the NFC's top seed on the road to advance.

By JOANNE KORTH
Published January 11, 2004

Brett Favre's place as a fan favorite already was secure. Fun-loving, folksy and fearless with a football. Gifted and gritty. Yes, there already were many reasons to feel good about Favre.

Now, add sentiment.

Playing through the pain of his father's recent death, Favre and the Packers have become the sentimental Super Bowl favorite of many fans nationwide, plucking heartstrings with their plucky playoff run.

The Packers face the NFC's top seed today in Philadelphia.

"It would make a great story," Favre told reporters last week. "It would be great to win it this year considering what has happened. ... Everyone wants to tune in to see if the story can still continue. I'm sure there are people out there that would love to see it happen, and I would, too."

Irvin Favre died of a heart attack Dec.21, one day before the Packers played the Raiders on Monday Night Football. With Green Bay fighting for a playoff berth, Favre refused to let his teammates down. In a moving performance, he threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Packers to a 41-7 victory.

"We've all heard those old cliches, "He would want me to play,' "He's up there watching,' and I've heard that, too," said Favre, whose father was his high school football coach. "I knew I had to play. I knew that even though it is a cliche, he would want me to play."

That's what Favre does.

He plays.

In his 13th season, Favre's active streak of 207 consecutive starts is an NFL record for quarterbacks that likely will not be broken. But beyond that, Favre is a quarterback for the everyfan.

He plays with abandon, willing to risk failure for reward. He shares his struggles, admitting to and overcoming an addiction to painkillers. He battles through injury, having played most of this season with a broken thumb on his right (throwing) hand.

"With everything Brett has gone through and (the way) everybody loves Brett in Green Bay, I can see why they're getting the reaction from the fans," said Eagles linebacker Nate Wayne, who was with Green Bay from 2000-02. "After him losing his father, they'd like to see him win a championship. The city, the fans and the players are going to do whatever it takes to help him do that."

Winners of their final four in the regular season, the Packers made the playoffs only when Arizona upset Minnesota on the final day of the season, on the final play. The magic continued in the wild-card round, when cornerback Al Harris returned an interception for a touchdown to beat the Seahawks in overtime.

Now, it's on to Philly.

But for the Packers' tale to continue, destiny must conquer a more formidable force: homefield advantage. Not once in 13 years since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams has a No.4 seed won an NFC division round game on the road.

"It's been exciting for those guys to do what they've been able to do over the past couple of weeks with the situation that Brett and his family have been through," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said.

"As a player and as a human being, I'm excited to see that those guys have been able to put that behind them, move forward and do it for his father. But we're going to have a little motivation as well. It's going to be an exciting game."

Favre acknowledges the loss of his father has served as additional motivation, but believes Green Bay has won five in a row because it is a good team playing well.

"If we're fortunate enough to win this game and move on, the question will be asked again next week," Favre said. "At some point people have to say, "Hey, the team's pretty good and, yeah, maybe it has helped a little bit, but we have to give the Packers their due.'

"You make your breaks or you don't make your breaks. It comes down to hard work, determination and, yeah, a little luck has to come your way. I know this team has worked extremely hard despite all the tragedy that we've faced. I think we've earned the right to be in this game regardless of what has happened."

[Last modified January 11, 2004, 01:33:09]


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