Deep thoughts aside, Favre says Pack still relies on short passes

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Chris Jenkins/Associated Press
November 8, 2007
— Brett Favre earned rave reviews for his patience in the first half of the season as he carefully picked defenses apart with low-risk short passes – “dinking and dunking,” as he likes to call it.

But with the game on the line in each of the past two weeks, Favre has gone from dinking and dunking to deep and decisive.

The Green Bay Packers have suddenly rediscovered the longball, as Favre found wide receiver Greg Jennings for late scores in victories at Denver and Kansas City.

Favre said Wednesday that while short passes are still the foundation for the Packers’ offense, it’s only natural that opposing defenses are becoming so worried about stopping receivers from running wild on slants and crossing routes that they lose focus on long passes and the running game.

“We’ve been able to shift gears a little bit but still be effective,” Favre said. “And I think by throwing the ball down the field a little bit, and having some success doing it, it’s opened up our run game a little bit. So you can see how they go hand in hand.”

Favre tried to go back to the longball in the Packers’ Oct. 14 victory over Washington. But he was intercepted twice on underthrown passes, leading to questions about whether he still had his fastball.

Favre came back from the Packers’ bye week to prove his arm strength by beating Denver with an 82-yard pass to Jennings on the first play from scrimmage in overtime. Six days later, Favre burned Kansas City with a 60-yard pass to Jennings that put the Packers ahead for good with just over three minutes left in the game.

Going into Sunday’s game against Minnesota at Lambeau Field, Jennings figures the Packers’ short passing game will become even more effective.

“You put that in the back of a cornerback or a safety’s mind, to make sure that you don’t allow that deep ball,” Jennings said. “No one wants to get beat deep. No one wants to get scored on. That opens up everything underneath, so it definitely is becoming beneficial for us to connect on those deep balls.”

Wide receiver Donald Driver said the Packers knew they had the ability to go deep all along but were waiting for the right opportunity.

“I guess they got to the point where they wanted to make sure that we didn’t catch the ball underneath and take the big runs – but now we’re killing them deep,” Driver said. “So we don’t know what they’re going to do (to stop us) now.”

Until now, Favre had spent so much of his career throwing the ball up for grabs that it was widely assumed Packers coach Mike McCarthy had to plead with him to take fewer chances with the ball in a more conservative offense.

But Favre said he was actually more comfortable taking short drops and making short throws earlier this year against teams that put a lot of pressure on the quarterback – like San Diego.

“We had to be effective in the short passing game, and we were doing that,” Favre said. “So it’s easy to say, ’Well, that’s what we do, I’m fine with that.’ No one wants to hold it all day and not have someone open and get hit, or be forced into a throw that otherwise you wouldn’t have thrown.”

But if long passes are going to work now, Favre is all for it.

“We don’t want to call them just to call them,” Favre said. “We want to look for matchups that are favorable to us.”

McCarthy said he’d like the Packers to be balanced, running just as many drop-back passing plays as they do short passes.

“We have been better of late,” McCarthy said. “It’s because our running game has picked up – I know so. It’s important to stay balanced. If we need to lean towards a three-step (drop) one game, or a five-step, or quarterback movements or fakes, you need to have that movement ability.”

Although the deep ball has added a new dimension to the offense, Favre said the Packers are far from perfect.

“None of us offensively should feel complacent right now because we’re so inconsistent, and that’s weekly,” Favre said.

Favre said the Packers seem to walk into their meetings every Wednesday morning imagining how much better they could be if they eliminate penalties and other mistakes.

“I think we’re far from being where we should be, but the good thing is we have been winning, and making enough plays,” Favre said. “We can make a lot more, but we’re making enough to win.”

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