Even when he wings it, Favre's simply the best

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Even Randy Moss had to salute Brett Favre last week.

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver, who has spent much of the year complaining that the Vikings aren't getting him the ball enough, said he wasn't confident of victory when he caught a touchdown pass with 1: 56 left against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.

"I wasn't jumping up and down. I was happy but I knew we had to give it back to the magician -- and he worked his magic. They have Favre. You can't start celebrating when they have Brett over there. He's the MVP, man," Moss said.

Sure enough, Favre pulled off another comeback and defeated the Vikings.

It has been overlooked that if the Packers didn't have Favre, they'd probably be 0-3 like the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons.

Favre took over with 1: 52 left against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 and 1: 51 left against Minnesota. He took them 82 yards in 11 plays against Oakland and threw the game-winner with 11 seconds left. He took them 77 yards in seven plays, all passes, and threw the game-winner with 12 seconds left against Minnesota.

When he came up to the line of scrimmage last week on a fourth-and-one at the Vikings' 23 with 18 seconds left and no timeouts, he didn't bother to call a play.

"I just told the guys to line up, I think," Favre said. "Everybody knew the tight end had to be on the ball and the X-receiver had to be on the ball, and the other two guys had to be off of it. It was just, 'Line up, guys, and get open.' Football is not that complicated, and our guys are good at this kind of thing."

Coaches like to make football sound like nuclear physics, but Favre can make it simple.

"I was just going to pump to one side and hope the other guy, Corey [Bradford] or whoever, would get a good release on a guy and get over the top," he said.

Bradford blew by Jimmy Hitchcock, who was looking for a first-down pass on fourth-and-one, and caught the game-winner.

General manager Ron Wolf said that Favre is the best player ever to play at Lambeau Field. Asked later in the week if he meant Packer or player, he said Packer. The more he thought about it, he might change that to player.

"He's very special. I think he's one of those gifted human beings that go down through the ages. I think of [John] Unitas, [Otto] Graham, [Sammy] Baugh, each one was separate and succinct in his own way," he said.

The only blemish Wolf can find on Favre's resume is that he doesn't have a history of playing well in domed stadiums.

Favre turns 30 next Sunday, and -- barring injury -- should be the league's dominant player for at least the next five years. He'll make the Packers a threat in every game.

Floyd Reese, the Tennessee Titans' general manager, said, "If you've got the last play of a game and you've got to win it somehow, there's probably nobody in the league you'd rather have his hands on the ball."

Trouble in Minnesota

Ravens coach Brian Billick may have gotten out of Dodge just in time. The Vikings seem to be unraveling.

Veteran wide receiver Cris Carter berated Hitchcock on the field after the game for giving up the winning touchdown pass. Moss was complaining that he caught only two passes.

"It's not frustrating to me," Moss said of the double coverage he has been getting. "It's only been frustrating to me when we lose. It's a situation where you have to bite your lip and go on."

On second thought, Moss had enough of biting his lip and took a shot at Ray Sherman, who replaced Billick as offensive coordinator.

"They were playing a lot of cover two [zone defense]. That's what coordinators are for -- to find a way to beat cover two. You can't do any of this stupid stuff like running down the sideline."

Sherman is a convenient target. Last year, he got all the blame in Pittsburgh for Kordell Stewart's problems, but Stewart played the same way last week. At some point, the players have to make plays.

Even Billick is sympathetic to Sherman's plight and the suggestion that his departure was the problem.

He told a Minnesota writer, "It's like the guy who dies. Everybody says he was a [great] guy. He was a jerk when he was here, but he's a [great] guy now that he's died."

Moss also was naive if he thought opponents were going to let him run free his entire career. Green Bay drafted three cornerbacks in an attempt to stop Moss.

"What teams are doing is they're putting a guy in his face and rolling another guy over the top," Hitchcock said.

Trouble in Jacksonville

Jacksonville, which plays at Pittsburgh today, went into the season as a Super Bowl favorite, but the pressure may be getting to the Jaguars.

After Mark Brunell threw an end-zone interception with 57 seconds left when the Jaguars needed a field goal to tie the game against Tennessee, coach Tom Coughlin blasted Brunell in front of his teammates in the locker room and then was critical in public.

Although Coughlin took the blame for the call, he said, "The fact of the matter is, you've got to make a play in that situation."

Brunell put it on Coughlin's shoulders, saying, "I don't call them. I just run them. If you want information, if you want to talk about the play-calling, I'm not the one to do that."

When all that started a firestorm in Jacksonville, Coughlin came to Brunell's defense.

"It's unfounded," Coughlin said of the fans' criticism of Brunell, overlooking that he was the first to do it. "There is no play or player who loses a football game."

The best of the worst

Forget who's the best team of the decade. Dallas and Denver can argue about that.

In Cincinnati today, they'll duel to decide whether the Rams or the Bengals are the worst.

The Bengals come in with a 48-99 record for the decade, Rams 47-99. The loser will join Tampa Bay in the 1980s as the only team to lose 100 games in a decade.

With the Rams at 2-0 and the Bengals at 0-3, the Rams appear to have the big edge. Now that Kurt Warner has done a good job replacing Trent Green, the Rams look like a playoff contender.

The result is that all the pressure is on the Bengals. There's a lot of discussion about yanking Jeff Blake and going with rookie Akili Smith at quarterback.

Quick facts

Buffalo's Doug Flutie and Miami's Dan Marino hold the single-season records for touchdowns in the CFL and NFL, respectively. Flutie threw 48 for Calgary in 1994. Marino threw 48 in 1984.

The San Francisco 49ers, who start Jeff Garcia today against Tennessee, are 26-10-1 with their backup quarterback since 1981. That includes Steve Young's 7-3 mark as a backup to Joe Montana.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the league's top defense, but are averaging just 15 points a game. No team has won a Super Bowl averaging fewer than 20.9 points a game.

Quotable

"I hope my ego is not that strong."

-- Denver coach Mike Shanahan, when asked if his ego was preventing him from replacing Brian Griese with Bubby Brister at quarterback.

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