McNabb no longer lives in Favre's shadow

Saturday, December 4th 2004, 11:12 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Donovan McNabb doesn't hear about Brett Favre anymore.

When McNabb was learning the West Coast offense in his early years with the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Andy Reid constantly showed him film of Favre running Green Bay's unit.

Reid, who coached Favre for seven seasons in the 1990s as an assistant on Mike Holmgren's staff with the Packers, wanted to mold McNabb into Favre's image. This led to endless comparisons between the two quarterbacks.

Finally, McNabb has created his own identity. The four-time Pro Bowl selection is having the best season of his six-year career, helping the Eagles to a 10-1 record and their fourth consecutive NFC East championship.

``Donovan has definitely emerged not only as a great quarterback in this league, but one of the great players,'' Favre said. ``He doesn't need to hear anything from Andy about me anymore. He's a tremendous player. I'm sure Andy, slowly but surely, is forgetting about Brett Favre and is talking more about Donovan.''

With Favre leading the Packers (7-4) into Philadelphia on Sunday for a rematch of last January's NFC divisional playoff, most of the talk has centered on McNabb and Favre, who starts his 201st straight regular-season game.

The two have more in common than easygoing personalities and playing for Reid. They have a strong passion for the game, an unrelenting desire to win, and a stubbornness to play through pain, inspiring their teammates by their leadership and courage.

Favre has overcome adversity over the past year, including the deaths of his father and brother-in-law, and his wife's diagnosis of breast cancer.

``I'm excited about the things he's been able to do,'' McNabb said. ``With everything that's happened in the past couple months, not a lot of people would be able to handle that. To see him out on the field is like he's letting his hair down and just letting out some steam.''

Favre and the rest of the Packers have bitter memories of their last trip to Philadelphia. With a berth in the NFC championship game at stake, the Eagles converted a fourth-and-26 on McNabb's 28-yard completion to Freddie Mitchell with 1:12 left in regulation, tied it on a field goal and won on another field goal in overtime set up by Favre's interception.

``It was a shame to go out, especially that way,'' Favre said.

After enduring the anguish of the loss throughout the offseason, the Packers struggled at the start of this season, losing four of their first five games. But the resilient Favre wouldn't give up, leading his team to six straight wins.

A three-time MVP, Favre shows no signs of slowing down at age 35. He has thrown for 2,841 yards, 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

``He's been playing this way for as long as I can remember, carrying his team,'' Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins said. ``That's why I always say I respect him every time I play him because I know what he brings to the table.''

McNabb said going against Favre motivates him to play better.

``You want to outdo the guy. You're talking about a Hall of Famer, you want to have your best game,'' McNabb said. ``To be on the sidelines when he's out on offense, I'll definitely be watching because it's sort of a learning experience.''

The Eagles also beat the Packers in Green Bay last season on a TD pass from McNabb to Todd Pinkston in the final minute of a game dominated by the Packers. It hardly compared to losing the playoff game in Philadelphia.

``I'd be lying to say that you totally wipe away losses,'' Packers coach Mike Sherman said. ``But this season's a new season. If you hang onto those things, they can certainly detract from the future.''

The Packers, tied with Minnesota for first place in the NFC North, need a victory more than the Eagles. Philadelphia clinched its division last week and has a one-game lead over Atlanta for first place in the conference.

Running back Ahman Green, who missed Green Bay's 45-17 Monday night victory over St. Louis with bruised ribs, could return Sunday. Najeh Davenport rushed for 178 yards in Green's absence.

The Eagles have won three straight games by a margin of at least 20 points, and eight of their wins have been by a double-digit margin.

``They're a great team. They didn't start out well, but they're playing well right now, they're finishing strong,'' Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens said. ``It's going to be two tough teams going head to head and we have to be accountable for what we need to do.''