There was anything but a passing of the torch yesterday. Tony Romo and Philip Rivers are still on the outside looking in and Brett Favre is still one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.
We may have said farewell to Arizona's Kurt Warner on Saturday and plenty of experts felt we might bid adieu to the 40-year-old Favre yesterday when his Minnesota Vikings met the Dallas Cowboys, for whom Romo had played so spectacularly in recent weeks.
The Cowboys had scored 75 points in their previous three games. Yesterday, they managed a field goal and lost 34-3.
Favre completed only 15 passes, but he made the most of them with four going for touchdowns, his most in a postseason game. He jump-started the Vikings and set the tone with a perfectly thrown, 47-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Sidney Rice in the first quarter. It was one of three TD hookups between the two.
It was equally what Favre didn't do. He didn't lose two fumbles, throw an interception, and suffer a career-high six sacks, which was Romo's line while under constant harassment by Minnesota's defense.
Yesterday's game mirrored Favre's calling card throughout this surprising season, which came on the heels of his second nonretirement. Favre had a career-best completion percentage and a career-best passer rating during the regular season, both figures bolstered by a career-low seven interceptions.
So he remains among the elite, at least for another week, and it is no coincidence that the NFL's Final Four includes, arguably, the three best quarterbacks in the pro game.
Peyton Manning, the league's MVP for the fourth time, will be in the AFC championship game, of course, as his Indianapolis Colts host the upstart New York Jets and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who crashed the elite party at Rivers' expense.
Favre and the Vikings, meanwhile, head for the Big Easy and the NFC title game, facing a New Orleans offense that has become almost video game-like with Drew Brees at the controls.
Two quarterbacks will make it to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV and if one of them is Favre it would come 13 seasons after he led Green Bay to a ring in January, 1997. Manning, who won a Super Bowl three years ago, was still a college star at Tennessee; Brees' NFL debut was even farther down the road, and Sanchez was 10 years old.
Will Favre take that final step? It depends on if it's a shootout or if the Vikings' defensive front - ends Jared Allen and Ray Edwards as well as the "Williams Wall," tackles Pat and Kevin - can hassle Brees as they did Romo.
Of course, New Orleans' defense could do the same to Favre. Just ask Warner, who already was hinting at retirement before taking a physical beating in Saturday's 45-14 loss to the Saints.
We may have seen the last of Warner, but we continue to see the best of Manning, who cerebrally and surgically picks apart opposing defenses like perhaps no quarterback who has come before. Indy's touchdown drive late in the first half against Baltimore on Saturday merely added to the legend.
That TD pass went to Reggie Wayne, part of a marvelous 1-2 punch with Marvin Harrison for so many seasons. But Harrison is gone now and Anthony Gonzalez, another key cog, is hurt. That Manning continued his mastery with young receivers like Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon is probably why he snatched the MVP award from Brees' grasp.
Maybe they'll settle it on a bigger stage.
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Dave Hackenberg at:
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