For Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre it was dèjà vu for, oh, maybe the 26th time this season. Feeling pressure, he scrambled to his left near midfield in the Silverdome last Saturday and heaved a bomb toward the right corner of the distant end zone. A minute remained in the game, the Detroit Lions were ahead 24-21, the season was on the line, and the time was right for a Favresque faux pas. Favre had thrown a league-high 24 interceptions during the regular season and had added a 25th in the third quarter that was returned 15 yards for a touchdown by Lion cornerback Melvin Jenkins, and, hey, why not toss one more log on his crackling bonfire of screwups?
Indeed, while rolling left, Favre had started to throw safely underneath the coverage to tight end Ed West, who was crossing from right to left, but then that most volatile of objects—Favre's brain—kicked in. "I told myself, There's gotta be something better," he said with a grin after the game. "That's my problem. Sometimes there's not something better."
This time there was. It came in the form of streaking All-Pro wideout Sterling Sharpe, who blew past Lion cornerback Kevin Scott on the right sideline as though Scott were picking flowers. Scott, who quite possibly felt that no human could throw a ball from where Favre was to where Sharpe would be, should be forgiven any miscalculation. Favre's across-the-field rocket traveled at least 60 yards.
The pass prevented the game from being nothing more than a reenactment of the previous week's Silverdome battle between these two teams. Detroit won that one, and the NFC Central Division crown, 30-20, largely by coaxing Favre into tossing four interceptions.
January 17, 1994
This time, the Lions were sabotaged by their own quarterback, Erik Kramer, who played the Favresque role by throwing two passes that were picked off in the end zone. The first was intercepted by Packer cornerback Terrell Buckley, and it snuffed a first-quarter drive. The second came with the Lions leading 17-14 in the third quarter and on the brink of putting the game away. Rookie safety George Teague stepped in front of a short pass intended for Detroit tight end Ty Hallock and set sail for the other end of the Silverdome, easily eluding a swimmer's dive by Kramer on his way to the longest touchdown—101 yards—in postseason history.
Fiteen minutes later, with the ball soaring toward Sharpe standing all alone in the end zone, one quarterback, at least, was about to be redeemed. The reticent Sharpe was so moved by the catch that gave Green Bay the win, 28-24, that he broke down and spoke to the press in the locker room for the first time in four years. With five receptions for 101 yards and three touchdowns on the day, Sharpe, who has been suffering from severe turf toe, showed that stoicism is at the root of his success. "I just take painkillers and go out and see what happens," he said.
Favre was so happy about his touchdown throw that he almost passed out. "I lost my helmet, my earpads," he said. "I started hyperventilating. I was looking for someone to kiss." He even empathized with Kramer, whose prone body after Teague's interception spoke volumes about the Lions' sudden, painful demise. "I've been there before," said Favre.
But for this day, at least, dèjà vu took a hike.