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Ageless Favre has Packers contending again

Brett Favre's story goes well beyond mere longevity.

He is far from a pathetic shell of his former self sticking around to pad his numbers.

Favre is still, well, Favre. He's an exceptionally talented passer with one of the greatest arms of any current or former quarterback in the game. He's a dynamic force. He's a winner, and not simply because he became the winningest quarterback in NFL history in Week 2.

Favre still has the ability to will his team to victory, which is exactly what he did in leading the Packers to a 31-24 win over the San Diego Chargers. He was his consummate, clutch self in connecting with Greg Jennings for a 57-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes left to put the Packers in front to stay. That scoring throw was Favre's third of the day and 420th of his career, tying him with Dan Marino for first on the league's all-time list.

It was the kind of game Favre has won many times in his long and illustrious career. The Packers needed him to out-duel another quarterback with a hot hand, Philip Rivers, who also had three touchdown passes and completed his first 15 passes on the way to a 306-yard day. And Favre did. The difference in their performances was that when the Chargers had a chance to put the game away on third-and-3 with 2:31 remaining, Rivers overthrew Vincent Jackson, and that gave Favre the chance for the game-clinching touchdown pass. Later, Rivers threw an interception that Nick Barnett returned 38 yards to the San Diego 2 to set up a Brandon Jackson touchdown run.

Breaking down the upsets

Green Bay 31, San Diego 21: You know the Favre angle. He's as focused as at any point in his career, mentioning after the game that tying Marino's record wouldn't have meant a thing if the Packers had lost. Favre realizes that the Packers, at 3-0, have something special going. He is at the controls of a team that is likely to have something to say about who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl. Of course, the Packers would be an easier sell as a contender if they had a running game. When your leading rusher has 22 yards (Jackson's total on six carries), you have some issues.

Speaking of issues, how about those Chargers? Sure, Rivers had a breakout performance, but it didn't count for much. Not with LaDainian Tomlinson still unable to crack the 100-yard mark. And not with a defense that was unable to prevent big plays when it needed two in the final minutes of the game.

At 1-2, the Chargers have raised plenty of questions, not the least of which is whether they made a mistake by firing Marty Schottenheimer after he led them to a 14-2 record in 2006. Perhaps the heated sideline exchange between Tomlinson and Rivers is a sign of unrest and frustration over an offense that doesn't function as consistently well as the one the Chargers fielded last season.

N.Y. Giants 24, Washington 17: With their season quite possibly hanging in the balance, the Giants rose to the occasion on both sides of the ball. Eli Manning showed exceptional poise in delivering a short throw to Plaxico Burress, who turned it into a 33-yard touchdown that provided the winning points. Burress showed no signs of the ankle injury that bothered him all week, and he didn't lose Manning's trust despite some early drops in the game.

Then it was the defense's turn to come up big, which it did by keeping the Redskins out of the end zone after three tries from the 1-yard line (following a spike by Jason Campbell on first-and-goal from the 1 to stop the clock with 51 seconds left).

Entering the game at 0-2, the Giants seemed on the verge of an implosion. Certainly, Tom Coughlin's coaching seat was hot and ready to get much hotter if his team would have fallen into an 0-3 hole. And the primary reason was the Giants' horrendous defensive effort through the first two games. That changed against the Redskins, who were held to 260 yards and converted only five of 16 third downs. The goal-line stand to hand Washington its first loss of the year should do plenty to quiet the critics -- at least for a week.

Jacksonville 23, Denver 14: For two weeks, the Broncos were living on the edge. Finally, they took a fall.

The Jaguars didn't do anything spectacular. David Garrard was solid, throwing for 154 yards and a touchdown. He did some of his best work with his feet, gaining 52 yards on 12 carries. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for 141 rushing yards, 84 by Taylor.

The Broncos entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked offense, but the Jaguars' defense was up to the challenge. Travis Henry struggled to find any running room and finished with only 35 yards. Jay Cutler threw for 222 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted. Mike Shanahan clearly trusted his No. 1 offense to come up big when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Denver 9-yard line with four-plus minutes remaining. It didn't. David Graham dropped a pass from Cutler, and Jacksonville cashed in with a short field goal to increase its lead to the nine-point margin of victory.

Top individual performances

» The numbers: Donovan McNabb threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a 56-21 victory over the Detroit Lions. Kevin Curtis caught 11 of McNabb's passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Brian Westbrook ran for 110 yards, caught five passes for 111 more and scored three times.

The skinny: McNabb took plenty of heat for saying on HBO's Real Sports that black quarterbacks are more harshly judged than their white counterparts. He didn't back down from the comments, which were recorded well before the Eagles' 0-2 start, and he seemed to thrive on the additional pressure they brought his way. Maybe McNabb, who had performed poorly for two games, needed something to get his juices flowing. He clearly played better with a chip on his shoulder.

Curtis is a perfect fit for the Eagles' offense, a precise route-runner and explosive force in the open field. Westbrook is demonstrating that he is an elite running back.

» The numbers: Jon Kitna threw for 446 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions. Roy Williams caught nine of Kitna's passes for 204 yards and a score.

The skinny: Lots of yards in playing catch-up in a losing effort, but you still have to respect the explosiveness of the Lions' passing game.

» The numbers:Tom Brady threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns to lead the New England Patriots to a 38-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Randy Moss caught five of Brady's passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

The skinny: OK, the Bills are banged-up and bad. Still, Brady is playing a different game than pretty much every other quarterback. His throws have never looked sharper. He has never seemed more in control of himself or the offense. It helps that he is getting considerable time in the pocket. And it helps that most of the time he has his choice of wide-open receivers.

Let's just say this about Moss: He can't be covered. Even when a defender guards him closely, as Jabari Greer often did in this game, Moss is capable of simply reaching out with his long arms and snatching the ball out of the air before his opponent has a chance to make a play.

» The numbers:Anquan Boldin caught 14 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the Arizona Cardinals' 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The skinny: Boldin continues to be spectacular, and his presence -- along with that of Larry Fitzgerald -- always gives the Cardinals a chance to succeed even against a top defense such as the Ravens'.

» The numbers: Joey Harrington threw for 361 yards and two touchdowns in the Atlanta Falcons' 27-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The skinny: Great numbers. But with the Falcons staring up from an 0-3 hole, will Bobby Petrino hand the starting job over to newcomer Byron Leftwich?

Quarterback situations to watch

»Rex Grossman threw three interceptions (two by Anthony Henry, who returned one for a touchdown) in the Chicago Bears' 34-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. His grasp on the starting job had been tenuous, at best. Now it might be gone.

» The Cardinals alternated Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner in their loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Warner played better, completing 15 of 20 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, while Leinart was 9 of 20 for 53 yards. Warner's two scores came in the fourth quarter and nearly allowed the Cardinals to rally for a win. Ken Whisenhunt might very well stick with Leinart -- he said as much after the game -- but he is flirting with severely shaking the confidence of his second-year quarterback.

» Kyle Boller took over at quarterback for the Ravens in place of Steve McNair, who was ailing. Boller led a drive that ended with Matt Stover's winning, 46-yard field goal as time expired.

» Daunte Culpepper took over for Josh McCown in the second half of the Oakland Raiders' 26-24 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Raiders were 0-2 with McCown as their starter. Culpepper was solid, though unspectacular, but restless Raiders fans are looking for a change and cheered when he entered the game.

» Jake Delhomme suffered an elbow injury in the Panthers' victory over the Atlanta Falcons. David Carr took his place and led the Panthers to a touchdown. Could Carr be stepping in as the starter for the Panthers' Week 4 showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

» Rookie Trent Edwards took over for Buffalo after J.P. Losman suffered a knee injury on a controversial hit from Vince Wilfork (who was penalized for roughing the passer) on the first play of the Bills' loss to the Patriots. Two plays later, Losman lost a fumble on a sack by Ellis Hobbs, left the game and never returned. Losman could be out for as many as two weeks. After watching Losman struggle through the first two weeks of the season, many critics clamored for Edwards to become the starter. But the rookie's first game, against the league's top-ranked defense, was less than special. He threw for 97 yards and was intercepted on the way to a passer rating of 43.1.

And then there were five unbeatens

» Dallas:Tony Romo and Terrell Owens gave a remarkable performance against an outstanding defense. And, with four more takeaways against Chicago, Wade Phillips' playmaking defense is performing as advertised.

» New England: The Patriots scored 38 points for the third week in a row. They could have scored more against the lowly Bills.

» Green Bay: Favre gives the Packers a chance in every game, even with their pathetic running game.

» Indianapolis: The Colts survived another dangerous AFC South game with a 30-24 victory over the Houston Texans. Peyton Manning was his usual outstanding self (20 of 29 for 273 yards and a touchdown), but he had plenty of help from Joseph Addai's two rushing touchdowns and a defense that twice intercepted Matt Schaub.

» Pittsburgh: In their 37-16 victory over San Francisco, the Steelers smothered Frank Gore (39 rushing yards) and dared Alex Smith (209 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception) to win the game with his arm. Willie Parker ran for 133 yards and Ben Roethlisberger had a typical Big Ben game (160 passing yards and a score).

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