NFL AT 100 — Packers-Raiders 2003: Favre deals with grief by playing heavy heart out
As part of its celebration of its 100th season, the NFL is designating a Game of the Week, each chosen to highlight a classic matchup. For this week, it is the Packers-Raiders game.
To mark each Game of the Week, the AP will be reprinting its story of a classic matchup in the rivalry. The following is the story from the 2003 meeting between the teams on the day after Brett Favre’s father passed away, first published on Dec. 23, 2003, and written by AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham.
By GREG BEACHAMAP — Sports Writer
OAKLAND (AP) — Brett Favre dealt with the grief in the best way he could imagine.
He played his heavy heart out.
Favre passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns a day after his father’s death, moving into second place in NFL history for career TD passes while leading the Green Bay Packers to a 41-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night.
With one spectacular long pass after another, Favre decimated the Raiders’ patchwork defense with one of the greatest performances in his 13-year career. He finished just 3 yards shy of his career high while sending the Raiders to their worst loss in eight years.
Favre threw for a personal-best 311 yards and four TDs in the first half, quickly turning a crucial game for the Packers’ playoff hopes into a blowout victory — and he did it on one of the saddest days of his life.
Irvin Favre died of a heart attack Sunday night while driving near his son’s hometown of Kiln, Mississippi. Brett decided to stay with the Packers (9-6) long enough to lead a victory that kept them in a tie with Minnesota atop the NFC North.
Favre went 22 of 30, smiling and hugging his teammates throughout the game. In the fourth quarter, he embraced his wife, Deanna, before they headed home to Mississippi.
Though the formula is complicated, Green Bay can all but clinch a playoff berth with a victory over Denver on Sunday — and if the Vikings lose to Arizona, the Packers will win their second straight division title. The Packers also will be in the playoffs if Seattle loses to San Francisco on Saturday.
With the first of two first-half scoring passes to Javon Walker, Favre passed Fran Tarkenton on the NFL’s career list with his 343rd career TD throw. The three-time MVP finished with 345, trailing only Dan Marino’s 420.
Favre got a respectful ovation from the normally vicious Raider Nation when he was announced as a starter in his 205th consecutive game, an NFL record for quarterbacks. He might have been drowning in emotion, but his performance was almost amazingly poised — and his receiving corps was just as impressive against the befuddled Raiders (4-11).
On the Packers’ fourth play from scrimmage, Favre threw a breathtaking 47-yard completion to Robert Ferguson — a high-arching ball that traveled at least 55 yards in the air, the kind of throw that only a handful of quarterbacks have ever mastered.
One play later, tight end Wesley Walls leaped for a 22-yard score in the back of the end zone. Favre jumped into Walls’ arms for a lengthy hug.
Favre completed his first nine passes, including a perfect 23-yard TD pass down the Packers’ sideline to Walker, before throwing an intentional incompletion out of the end zone. He then completed his next three, hitting Walker again when the receiver outmuscled two Oakland defenders for a 43-yard TD catch.
Many of Favre’s throws were into coverage, but the Raiders’ secondary allowed repeated catches: seven of at least 20 yards. Favre capped the half with a 46-yard pass to Walker and a 6-yard TD to David Martin with a minute left.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Favre’s 311 yards passing were the most in a first half in his career and the most in any first half since Peyton Manning had 324 for Indianapolis on Sept. 23, 2001.
Charlie Garner made a spinning 25-yard TD run in the first quarter, but Oakland’s offense had no chance to keep up with Favre and his receivers. The Raiders will finish their hugely disappointing campaign Sunday in San Diego, where they lost the Super Bowl last season.
Favre’s receivers beat Oakland cornerback Phillip Buchanon for three of the first-half scores, and Buchanon was benched in the second half. So was quarterback Rick Mirer, who went 12 of 23 for 114 yards before Rob Johnson took over late in the third quarter.
Green Bay defensive lineman Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had three sacks, giving him 10 for the season to become the first player in franchise history with at least 10 in three straight seasons. Gbaja-Biamila’s brother, Akbar, plays for the Raiders, and two more of their brothers were in attendance at the Coliseum.
TOP PHOTO: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, right, is hugged by teammate Ahman Green at the end of Green Bay’s 41-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday, Dec. 22, 2003, in Oakland, Calif. Favre’s father, Irvin Favre, died Sunday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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