BECAUSE I like Brett Favre, as a guy and as a quarterback, I almost felt bad for him at the end of Sunday’s game, surrounded by Lions, looking desperately downfield, forcing a bad pass and watching it land in the arms of the wrong guy to choke a would-be miracle….

Well, I said “almost.”

In the end, I choose to feel about Favre’s fate the way I did about eating crocodile down in Australia: It’s payback. Eat or be eaten.

How many years have we watched Favre bring the Pack back in the closing seconds, stepping out of the pass rush just as a Lion was about to grab him? How many daggers has he stabbed into the heart of this Detroit franchise — regular season and especially in the playoffs? He is the bully from the next town over, the guy you can count on tangling with a couple of times a year, whose face you still see from the last time he beat you up.

All of which made Sunday so special. For here was something you don’t often see: Favre in the clutches of the Detroit defense, a cartoon mouse in a cat’s paw.

On Green Bay’s third play, Robert Porcher and Tracy Scroggins charged in and brought Favre down.

On the Pack’s next series, Scroggins was all over him, forcing a bad third-down pass.

A few series later, here came Luther Elliss, mowing over guard Marco Rivera like tall grass, dispensing of him, then grabbing Favre and yanking him to the ground.

And not long after that, as the Pack was driving for a score, here came Scroggins again, fighting off his man, getting behind Favre and slicing the quarterback’s arm like a bread knife. The football shot up into the air, and Scroggins actually had a chance at a diving baseball catch.

“I thought to myself: Oh, man!” Scroggins said. “What if I caused that fumble, and now I can catch it, too?”

Would that be a double play?

Main course is Puree de Favre

Never mind. The single act was enough. By halftime the Lions would have three sacks of Favre, two recovered fumbles, and one interception for a touchdown.

Whoa. Did I wake up in some other town? These are the Lions, right? The team for whom the words “improve the pass rush” are as perennial as “lose weight this year.”

“We knew we had to disrupt Favre,” said Porcher, who finished with two half-sacks and a forced fumble. “For all the years guys like Tracy and I have been playing against him, you never stop coming after him. Any time he is holding the ball, he’s capable of making a huge play.”

Such was the case at the end of the game. After rolling to a 31-9 lead, the Lions watched Favre lead the Pack to within a touchdown, 31-24, with more than seven minutes to go. The Detroit offense, which had moments of fluid excellence, suddenly was a stalled Jeep, stuck in the mud. Could barely get a first down.

Which meant the defense had to do the stopping.

It did. With 1:51 left, Favre took the snap, dropped back, and once again felt the rush of a Lion behind him. This time it was James Jones, closing fast. Favre tried to step to the side, but here came Porcher, a squeeze play, and Favre wanted out. So he hastily heaved the ball to the center of the field, way off the mark. No Packer was close. But up stepped Lions free safety Kurt Schulz (who, by the way, is leading the league with six interceptions, and when was the last time a Lion did that?) and picked off the pass. The threat was over.

Lions are 4-2. Pack is 2-4.

Hmmm.

We could get used to this.

Still hungry? Have some Moore

Speaking of things you don’t often see, a nod to James Stewart, who for the second straight week racked up yards when needed. He had only 56 yards rushing, but he had 67 receiving, including a crucial shovel pass late in the game that kept a drive alive and the Packers off the field. He had a good game last week against Minnesota, so perhaps the Lions really are developing a semireplacement for B–, Ba–, Barr- …aw, you know whom I mean.

And finally, in more of the “things we don’t see often” department, how about Herman Moore, who caught his first touchdown of the season Sunday — a sweet crossing route that he ran in 30 yards for the score? I don’t want to say Herman was excited, but he climbed halfway to the nosebleed seats to pump his fists.

“I can still jump, but I’m not like these younger guys,” he said afterward. “I need a little boost up there.”

In more ways than one. Moore has been mysteriously absent from the Lions’ offense — while everyone around him pretends that he isn’t. Maybe this will get him back. Let’s hope so. These are rare sights in Detroit, but good ones: a powerful pass rush, a reliable running game, a former All-Pro receiver returning to form.

Eat or be eaten. When those are the choices, better to be the one left smacking his lips.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Listen to Mitch’s radio show, “Albom in the Afternoon,” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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