American football: The pack left to chase the Pack

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The Independent Online
When Brett Favre took his first snap of the campaign earlier this month he could be forgiven a twinge of trepidation. True he was the game's outstanding quarterback a year ago, but Favre had spent six weeks of the close season in a clinic rehabilitating from his publically confessed addiction to pain-killers. Would the same player return?

Three thumping victories later and it seems Favre is better than ever. His team, the Green Bay Packers, were widely tipped to supplant the Dallas Cowboys as the NFC's representatives in the Super Bowl. Their breathtaking early-season form suggests their presence in the big game is little more than a formality. The latest victims, the previously unbeaten San Diego Chargers, were mauled 42-10, with Favre throwing three touchdown passes to take his season's total to an astonishing 10.

As reassuring for fans of one of the league's storied franchises is that each area of their team is operating at full throttle: LeRoy Butler returned an interception 90 yards for one score while Desmond Howard - the former Heisman Trophy winner who failed to make the grade in Washington - ran back a punt 65 yards for another.

Next week the Pack visit the Minnesota Vikings, who somewhat surprisingly have matched them win for win. Their starting quarterback Warren Moon - hardly missed when injury ruled him out of the first two games - returned to steer his team to a 20-14 triumph in Chicago.

Indianapolis, Miami and Kansas City also boast 3-0 records, a scenario the Colts could hardly have expected when they visited the Cowboys with a side riven by injuries. The most notable of six absentees was running back Marshall Faulk, and as they fell 21-3 behind in the second quarter the excuses were no doubt being dusted down.

However the Cowboys are not the ruthless outfit of yesteryear, and the Colts battled back to force a field goal shoot-out in the final quarter. In a dramatic finale Cary Blanchard notched a 43-yarder for the Colts with 53 seconds to go (his fourth of the game), then the Cowboys' Chris Boniol hit the crossbar as he failed to convert from 56 yards as time expired.

That left the Colts the winners by 25-24, their first victory over the Cowboys since Super Bowl V in 1970.

Next Monday the Colts entertain the Dolphins, who continued their impressive start under Jimmy Johnson by beating the New York Jets 36-27. The Dolphins trailed 14-0, but Dan Marino, having had a pass intercepted and returned 100 yards for a TD, threw for three of his own: a suitable way to celebrate his 35th birthday. The Chiefs were comfortable winners over Seattle, with the cornerback Dale Carter doubling as wide receiver and catching a TD pass.

The Houston Oilers have also made a good start to the season, but even if they win the Super Bowl they are unlikely to stir the local populace. Committed to leaving for Tennessee in two years' time, the Oilers attracted their lowest crowd ever to watch the defeat of Baltimore: a paltry 20,082.

Results, tables, Digest, page 25

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