Many people remember Gen. Douglas MacArthur's speech when he said, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away." For me, however, some of MacArthur's greatest words were delivered when he quoted poet Samuel Ullman in a speech on his 75th birthday.
"Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."
On the sacred grounds of Lambeau Field on Sunday, we saw an old soldier, Brett Favre, in a different uniform, performing brilliantly and leading the Vikings -- with a test of will and no thought of just fading away.
November is revelation month in the NFL as each week reveals authentic playoff contenders and which teams will just fade away. Sunday showed without a doubt that the Vikings are better than the Packers.
Favre obviously plays a part in that assessment, but rookie receiver Percy Harvin (who has my vote for the Offensive Rookie of the Year), defensive end Jared Allen and running back Adrian Peterson are also vital. However, the biggest differences between the Vikings and Packers are the big boys on the offensive line, which tilts the balance of power in Minnesota's favor.
Yes, Favre has been magnificent in both games vs. his former team, throwing for seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Still, he had help. Favre wasn't sacked in either contest while Aaron Rodgers went down 14 times. You will have to dig deep into the statistical archives to find a team winning games with a minus-14 in sack differential.
Imagine if Favre had stayed in Green Bay and Rodgers went to the Minnesota. The outcome of both games would most certainly be the same. The Vikings' offensive line dominates the game, therefore the offense functions at a high level with an effective quarterback.
For the Packers, focusing on Favre beating them is a mistake. He played a role, but the offensive line was the difference in the season sweep. Until the Packers fix their blocking, they will not be able to beat the Vikings on any field.
With a team effort, Favre did conquer in his return to Green Bay and it appears he's not going to fade away.
» Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn had a rough stretch last week as he heard from the Miami faithful and former players that he wasn't a good player, certainly not one worth the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft. But instead of sulking or blaming someone else, he took the attitude, "It's not about what you do on offense, it's about what you do to help the team win." Ginn returned two kickoffs for touchdowns to spark a season sweep of the Jets. I love those words from Ginn -- the son of a football coach. He obviously learned about being a good teammate and fighting adversity from his proud father.
» Speaking of fathers, former Chargers defensive back Gill Byrd must be awfully proud of his son, Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who had two interceptions for the third straight game. He joins former 49ers DB Dave Baker as the only players since 1960 with at least two interceptions in three consecutive games.
» The Rams beat the Lions to end their 17-game losing streak and go into the bye feeling a little better. The preparation for the victory actually started in the Week 7 loss to the Colts. Despite a lopsided score, coach Steve Spagnuolo coached his players with passion and enthusiasm. He never quit or complained, so why should his team?
» Vince Young is back as a starter for the Titans and running back Chris Johnson busted out for 228 rushing yards to help Tennessee get its first win. Johnson had more yards than the Browns, Raiders, Bills, Dolphins and Broncos gained all day.
» Trailing the Bills 10-6 at the half might have been enough for the old Texans. But the 2009 version rallied with 22 points in the fourth quarter to win and is now two games over .500 for the first time in franchise history. Week 9 brings a showdown with the Colts.
» This might have been the quietest week ever in the great rivalry between the Giants and Eagles, as both towns are represented in the World Series. The Giants probably wish it was quiet this week too, but don't expect it after they got hammered for their third straight loss.
» The Seahawks are not a good road team, having lost 11 of their last 13 games away from Seattle. For that matter, they are not a good team right now. The Seahawks play in the rather weak NFC West, which is the only division that does not have more than one team with at least a .500 record.
» I was once told, "Judgment becomes impaired by arrogance." That might have been the case in New York on Sunday. The Jets pride themselves on being cocky and refused to change their strategy of kicking to Ginn. He burned them twice. The stat sheet looks like a win for the Jets until you read the return yards: 318-160.
» Speaking of special teams, why did the Packers kick the ball to Harvin? Have they not seen enough of him racing the ball back each week? I don't think a team should back down to a challenge, but be smart. Why are all the games filmed if teams ignore the past accomplishments of their opponents?
» The Browns, wearing those god-awful pants, are funny, but the direction this team is headed under coach Eric Mangini is not comical to the loyal and loving fans. While patience in all sports is very important, patiently going down the wrong road is still going down the wrong road. Browns owner Randy Lerner might want to make sure he knows where Mangini is taking his team, because from this viewpoint, they're headed nowhere.
On the lookout
» On the shores of Lake Erie, the Texans found their running game under the direction of Eagles castoff Ryan Moats. Moats, who had a career day with 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns, replaced the fumble-prone Steve Slaton.
» Bears running back Matt Forte finally had a good game (I know it was against Cleveland's defense), gaining 90 yards on 26 carries and scoring twice. A little observation from my scouting background -- some of the second-year running backs (Forte) and in Michael Turner's case, second-year starters, that had to take the bulk of the carries last season do not seem to have the same bounce or explosion in their step. Each week I keep waiting for them to regain their old form, but it's not there.
» The Cowboys had a very good win against the Falcons in Week 7, but as former Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, "The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more." And more the 'Boys did, as they were impressive in dominating a bad Seattle team Sunday. Dallas is going to be tough to beat at home with more than 80,000 people screaming. The Cowboys might be getting hot at the right time.
On the lookout â¦ for fantasy fans
» 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree looks like the real deal. All but one person knew he was the best wideout in the draft. He will continue to get better and better each week as he learns the pro game on the fly.
» Packers fullback/tight end Spencer Havner has four receptions and three touchdowns the last two weeks. You have to love a player who does all the little things well and gets a reward now and then in the red zone. This might not happen every week, as teams might adopt the policy of trying to contain Havner, not stop him.
Off the beaten track
» The only way to beat the Colts is the way the 49ers played them. Teams should forget about the yards allowed statistic and just worry about red zone defense. Opponents should forget preparing for their first-and-10 schemes in getting ready for the Colts, but rather get as many repetitions against Indianapolis' red zone schemes as possible. Forcing field goals gives you a chance, as no team is going to slow them down. The 49ers allowed 410 yards but held the Colts without a touchdown in four red zone visits. They didn't win, but gave themselves a chance for a victory, which is the first step.
» The Dolphins have one of the most impressive looking teams coming off the bus and they play with a physical style. Backup Paul Soliai is quickly becoming a big-time nose tackle. But Miami might want to diversify its coverages in the secondary as it leads the league in penalties -- mostly as a result of too many illegal contacts flags.
» Many think the Panthers are a grind it out run team, but in reality, they have to make big plays to be successful on offense. Big plays for them must come from their running game, as was the case in their upset of the Cardinals. In the first half, Carolina scored 14 points -- led mostly by the running of DeAngelo Williams, who had 108 yards on 10 carries through two quarters.
» The Giants' talk about getting better is just words. They must execute with more precision and detail to turn their slump around. You are only a good team when you play like one. ...
» Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is fun to watch run, but what I love most is when he moves piles with his amazing lower body. His team might not be any good, but he is great. Tackling gets worse as the season enters November, so all the backs that can run hard and break tackles have great days. ...
» Every defensive coordinator in the league knows Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown is left-handed and can throw moving to his left. But did they remember the Colts' Joseph Addai can throw moving that way as well? They will from now on -- left-handed backs are easily forgotten. I bet former Eagles and Dolphins back Keith Byars laughs each time he watches a running back throw going to his left. The lefty had six career touchdown passes. ...
» Peyton Manning thought it was great to grind it out for a win this week against the 49ers. No one can see the big picture as clearly as Mr. Manning. He knows these young Colts are going to have to learn to fight through adversity in order to win critical games in November and December. ...
» I am sure Eagles coach Andy Reid was saving big fullback Leonard Weaver for the right game, maybe one against a physical team like the Giants. It is so important to have a player who helps you win critical divisional matchups. Weaver proved to be a very valuable addition Sunday. ...
» Miami coach Tony Sparano had the line of the day when addressing his team after beating the Jets. He said, "Give them some credit for being a good team because we know they won't give us any." Two wins against the Jets this year is all the credit Sparano will need. ...
» November football is exciting and makes me ask myself every Monday morning -- is it Sunday yet?