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Favre is 38 and graying, but he's as elusive and creative as ever

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- What Mike Holmgren reinforced in Brett Favre may come back to haunt the Seahawks this weekend.

When Holmgren was Green Bay's head coach from 1992-98, he encouraged Favre to follow his free spirit. Scramble around. Improvise.

"'We're not going to let him sit in the pocket. That's not what he does best,'" Favre remembers Holmgren saying then. "'I'm going to allow him to make plays that otherwise I probably wouldn't have done with maybe some of the other guys.'"

"He allowed me to flourish and make plays when plays were not there," Favre said. "It's no secret my history has shown that I'll take chances. I'll do whatever."

Seattle's coach may have reason to regret his guidance.

The Seahawks' fierce pass rush faces one of its toughest challenges Saturday, at Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs. It's the opposite of last week's task against Washington in the wild-card round. The Seahawks sacked Todd Collins three times even though the Redskins kept as many as seven men in to block.

The Packers' second-ranked offense usually leaves just linemen as Favre's vanguard. Yet opponents are sacking the graying, 38-year-old less than they did when he was 28.

Favre's abilities to avoid defenders, to sense them coming before seeing them and to fall away from them while throwing accurately have kept him playing long enough that this will be his 274th consecutive start.

Green Bay allowed 19 sacks in 16 games, tied for third-fewest in the league and exactly the average number of times Favre has gone down over the last five seasons. That's even though Favre has led the league in attempts twice during that span, with 607 in 2005 and a career-high 613 in '06.

Also, Favre says he doesn't have to be as elusive these days.

"There are some things that I used to do that I don't do now," Favre said. "Mainly, move around as much.

"I don't trust my legs like I used to, but more importantly, I feel like I know the offense much better. I don't feel like I have to."

How important are sacks to the Seahawks' chances of winning? They have 43 sacks in their 11 victories, but just five sacks in their six losses.

"They're damn good," Favre said.

Favre's preservation side was speaking when he said changing things and keeping an extra man in to block Patrick Kerney, who was second in the NFL in 14 1/2 sacks this season, would be a good idea. Washington triple-teamed Kerney last week.

"Sliding protection to Kerney, helping out with a tight end, helping out with a back is a logical thing to do," Favre said.

Kerney credits Green Bay's offensive line with being "man for man, very good protectors."

But he knows the essence of Favre's amazing durability.

"Brett, his escapability and his release, that's really their pass protection," Kerney said.

So, yes, Favre remains elusive, even though he is old enough that he has a daughter in college. Even though he was in junior high in Kiln, Miss., in 1982 -- the year Lofa Tatupu was born.

"Brett, he can avoid a sack now," the Seahawks' All-Pro linebacker said. "They aren't worried about keeping everyone in, because (releasing them) just gives him more options. He sees it all. I don't think he's looking at his receivers. He looks to see where the blitz is coming from, then he knows where he's going with the ball."

Green Bay's tackles are mammoth stalwarts, with 320-pound Chad Clifton on the left and 315-pound Mark Tauscher on the right. They often simply shove charging defenders past Favre, allowing the quarterback to step up and move laterally to find open receivers.

The Packers' vulnerability could be up the middle, an area Seattle may exploit with blitzes from Tatupu or with Kerney and fellow Pro Bowler Julian Peterson.

Green Bay benched second-year left guard Daryn Colledge midway through the Nov. 29 loss at Dallas. He is back starting only because Junius Coston was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury he sustained in the regular-season finale.

Center Scott Wells is in his second season as full-time starter. At right guard is Jason Spitz, who has also started at center and tackle during his second season out of Louisville.

Then again, even if Seattle reaches Favre up the middle, he is likely to dash away and still get off his throws.

"He doesn't run to gain yards, he runs to buy time. He's always done a great job of that," Kerney said. "When he knows pressure is coming, he knows how to fall away on his throws and still be accurate.

"So it's a challenge -- but something our defense definitely has to do to contain this offense."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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