Film Room: Batting interceptions in the 2001 Wild Card Game

The Packers and 49ers had a lot of memorable playoff match-ups in the Brett Favre era. And, while some games were more memorable as a whole – The Mud Bowl in the 1996 Divisional Round stands out in my mind – the Wild Card match-up in 2001 has the distinct honor of having the most memorable ending.

Steve Young was no longer around, but the 49ers found another solid quarterback: Jeff Garcia. 2001 was Garcia’s third year as a starter, and he turned in a nice season, completing 62.7% of his passes for 3,538 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Terrell Owens was a big part of that, putting up 1,412 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns.

Scoring was tough in this game, which each team struggling to consistently drive down the field. With 6:53 left in the game, the Packers were up 18-15, but the 49ers had put together a nice drive, picking up 31 yards on the first 3 plays.

On 1st & 10 from the Packers 41 yard line, the Packers were loading up at the line and showing blitz. The 49ers had a two-man passing concept from their stacked Twins set. Tai Streets was running up the seam from the slot, while Owens got an outside release against Mike McKenzie and ran a go route.

The Packers had split safeties deep, which meant only one safety – Tyrone Williams – was over the Twins formation of Streets and Owens. With the Packers showing blitz, Streets was uncovered at the line. Because of that, he was Garcia’s first read. If that route was taken away, the idea was that the route of Streets would occupy Williams, leaving Owens one-on-one with McKenzie on the outside.

Streets was taken away, but not only by Williams. The linebacker fell under the route of Streets, and he was also picked up over the top by the safety from the other side. That freed Williams up to play over Owens.

With Streets out of the equation and the rush closing in, Garcia tried to hit Owens over the top. To avoid the closing Williams, the ball was slightly underthrown, but not quite underthrown enough for McKenzie to intercept the ball. So what did he do? I have a feeling you already know.

McKenzie reached out and batted the ball into the middle of the field, and into the loving embrace of Tyrone Williams. It’s so expertly executed that I could swear they practiced that, although it seems like an oddly specific thing to practice.

The Packers went down and scored a touchdown on the following drive, due in part to Favre trying to maim Antonio Freeman with a pass on 3rd down.

With the score now 25-15 with 2:00 remaining in the game, the 49ers were in a tough spot. That tough spot turned into an impossible spot when they fumbled the ensuing kickoff, turning the ball over to the Packers.

The Packers walked off the field with a victory and there was no game the following week. The history books tell me that Favre threw 6 interceptions in a loss to the Rams, but that’s just part of The Mandela Effect.


Albums listened to: Sparklehorse – It’s a Wonderful Life; Further Seems Forever – The Moon is Down; Starflyer 59 – Leave Here a Stranger; Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – No More Shall We Part; Denison Witmer – Of Joy and Sorrow; Bjork – Vespertine; The Appleseed Cast – Low Level Owl Volumes 1 & 2; Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator); Over The Rhine - Films for Radio

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].

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Comments (5)

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jont's picture

June 02, 2021 at 04:38 pm

For my money, the play of the game was the first snap.
Gilbert Brown delivers an absolute pancake sack on Garcia.
Gilbert is one of my favorite players of all time so I'm biased, but no GB fan can help but cheer at this even 20 years later.

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dobber's picture

June 03, 2021 at 07:39 am

The bots appreciate your work, Dusty.

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DustyEvely's picture

June 03, 2021 at 10:31 am

I'll take all the appreciation I can get.

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greengold's picture

June 03, 2021 at 10:52 am

Great stuff, Dusty! As always!!! Best to you bud!

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Bearmeat's picture

June 03, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Favre was so bad in the playoffs after 1996. He made it all about him and his legacy and choked every postseason thereafter.

Sound familiar, 2020 Packers fans? We’re in Groundhog Day with a Diva QB!

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