Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sports Illustrated: August 17, 1998

The Packers’ 24th appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated came in August of 1998, during the preseason following the Packers’ loss to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII. Quarterback Brett Favre is pictured on the cover of the “1998 NFL Preview Spectacular.” In addition to the usual football prognostications and articles, as well as scouting reports for all 30 teams, the cover promotes the feature “Brett Favre: One Play, One Hundred Decisions.”

The article begins: “Ever wonder what’s going on in the mind of a quarterback between snaps? Here are 40 heart-pounding Super Bowl seconds, as seen through the eyes of Brett Favre:

“In the meticulously time-managed world of the NFL, in which months of off-season preparation are followed by weeks of training camp and then a daily regimen leading up to each game, the culmination of all that planning is compressed into 40-second segments. That’s the amount of time allotted between the end of one play in the life of the Packers’ offense, as seen through the eyes of three-time league MVP Brett Favre. It’s Green Bay’s ball, first-and-10 at the Denver 22, with about 11 minutes left in the first quarter of a scoreless Super Bowl XXXII. The play clock behind each end zone resets to...

:40 — After landing hard at the end of a 13-yard catch, Packers wideout Antonio Freeman rises and shakes off the cobwebs. Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren stares at the field, looking to see where the ball will be spotted.

:38 — Favre strides upfield, looking to the sideline for quarterbacks coach Andy Reid. Reid, who’s wearing a headset, relays the plays from Holmgren to the quarterback by way of a tiny speaker in Favre’s helmet.

:37 — Once he knows the down and distance, Holmgren begins seven seconds of decision-making, determining which one of the 120 plays on his plastic-coated game plan is the best for this situation. All week he spoke to Favre about stretching the red zone a few yards; the Broncos have allowed a generous 65% completion rate between the 15 and 20 all season. Holmgren could also run Dorsey Levens, who has shredded the Denver defense for 28 yards on his first four carries. Even if Green Bay lines up three or four wideouts, Denver must respect the run.

:34 — Reid pushes the red button on his right hip, opening communications with Favre. “First-and-10 at the plus-22,” Reid says, “Think red zone.” Favre is excited. He thinks Holmgren is going to call a pass.

:30 — “Two Jet All Go,” Holmgren says, speaking into his microphone to Reid. The Packers will go for the touchdown. Four wideouts will spread across the field and streak towards the end zone.

:29 — The Packers make two substitutions: wide receivers Derrick Mayes and Terry Mickens for fullback William Henderson and tight end Mark Chmura.

:28 — “Two Jet All Go,” Favre hears in his helmet. Reid then tells him the formation — “Spread Right” — but Favre already knows it. It’s the only formation Holmgren would use with “Two Jet All Go.”

:25 — “Spread Right, Two Jet All Go, on one,” Favre says in the huddle. As the players break, Freeman looks to Mayes, who will line up outside him, on the far right, and says, “Remember to keep our spacing right.”

:24 — The four wide receivers move to their positions: Robert Brooks split wide left, a step off the line of scrimmage; Mickens on the line, three paces outside of left tackle Ross Verba; Freeman in the right slot; Mayes split wide. The only player in the backfield with Favre is Levens, who excels at picking up blitzes.

:19 — Favre cranes to see the play clock. Good, he thinks, plenty of time. Next he starts looking over at the defense as he settles in at the line.

:15 — Favre is on his own now. Electronic communication between the bench and the quarterback, introduced exclusively for play-calling, is cut at the 15-second mark by an NFL official in the press box.

:14 — Most quarterbacks check the safeties first for clues to the defense’s plans. Favre is no different. Broncos safeties Steve Atwater and Tyrone Braxton are 12 yards off the line. Even with the four-wideout set, neither appears to be cheating toward any receiver or to be thinking blitz. Zone coverage more than likely, Favre reasons.

:13 — The cornerbacks are five and 10 yards off the line. They’re giving up the underneath ball, Favre thinks, but there’s no reason to call an audible. He likes the play.

:12 — As he stands behind center Frank Winters, Favre guesses that the anxious-looking outside linebacker to his left, John Mobley, will blitz. That means Favre must change the blocking assignment for Levens, who in “Two Jet” was to have picked up any blitzer coming from the right side.

:11 — Favre turns and shouts to Levens, “Three Jet! Change to Three Jet!” Levens now knows to look for any blitzer coming from his left.

:09 — Now Favre barks the count, “Three 19! Three 19! Set Hut!”

:08 — The ball is snapped. Favre’s right leg drives backward as he begins a five-step drop. (The play clock is turned off at the snap, but here is a second-by-second account as the play unfolds).

:07 — Two steps into his drop, Favre glances left and sees Brooks and Mickens running into traffic. Mobley drops to cover Mickens, so Favre thinks that Freeman or Mayes might be open on the right before Atwater, lined up on the left, can get across the field. On the third step, Favre’s head swivels slightly right. Mayday!

:06 — Out of the corner of his right eye, Favre sees number 39, cornerback Ray Crockett, steaming in. Four steps into his drop all Favre can see is that 39 is getting bigger and bigger. Favre knows he’ll get hit, because Levens is helping Winters pick up blitzing linebacker Bill Romanowski. (“I blew it,” Favre thinks of his changing Levens’s blocking assignment.)

:05 — As he takes the fifth step and plants, Favre looks past Crockett while cocking his arm. He sees Braxton crouch, as though he’s expecting Freeman to run a quick hook or out. Bad move, Favre thinks. But it makes sense: Braxton knows Crockett is blitzing. That leaves an open area in the middle of the field, so Braxton figures that Favre will surely dump the ball there before he gets smacked.

:04 — Get rid of it quick, is all Favre is thinking now. Freeman accelerates past Braxton. Favre figures Freeman will beat Braxton to the back of the end zone, so he aims for the end line. Standing on the Denver 29, he throws a perfect 39-yard spiral.

:03 — Crockett gives Favre a shove, not the jarring shot the quarterback expected to receive.

:02 — Behind Braxton now, Freeman looks over his left shoulder and sees the pass coming. Out of the corner of his eye he also sees Atwater closing fast from the left. “Like a freight train,” Freeman says later.

:01 — The ball nestles into Freeman’s hands, and as he plants his right foot just inside the end line, Atwater delivers a wicked shot with his right forearm to Freeman’s left shoulder. Too late. For the 38th time in five months, Favre thrusts two fists into the air to celebrate a touchdown pass. “No feeling in the world like it,” he says later.


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