Film Room: Brett Favre, Joe Montana and Black 59 Razor

Bennett the lone setback
Two tight end set up for the Packers
and Favre back to throw his first one
Going deep
Has a man open!
Andre Rison does the dance in
and Favre gets settled down in a hurry

A poem by Pat Summerall, January 26, 1997

On Brett Favre’s first pass attempt in Super Bowl XXI, he called an audible at the line and hit Andre Rison on a post route for a 54 yard TD and a quick 7-0 lead for the Packers. While the audible was born out of Favre killing time in his hotel room before the game, the inspiration came from a game 7 years prior when the 49ers destroyed the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. It was a 49ers coaching staff that featured Mike Holmgren as Offensive Coordinator.

Holmgren had been the QB coach under Bill Walsh from 1986-1988. When Walsh retired following the 1988 season, George Seifert got the Head Coaching position and promoted Holmgren as his Offensive Coordinator. The 49ers were a buzzsaw in 1989. They went 14-2, with their two losses coming by a combined 5 points. On the season, they outscored their opponents by 189 points (11.8 points per game).

In the playoffs? They went 3-0, outscoring their opponents by a total of 100 points (33.3 points per game). Like I said: a buzzsaw.

Holmgren was the Offensive Coordinator through the 1991 season, then he took the position of Head Coach in Green Bay as part of Ron Wolf’s rebuild. Now, in 1996, that Holmgren-led team found themselves on the cusp of the Packers first Super Bowl appearance since their victory in Super Bowl II in 1967.

And what was MVP quarterback Brett Favre doing the day of the Super Bowl? Why, sitting in his hotel room watching old Super Bowl games, of course. When Super Bowl XXIV came up, he noticed Joe Montana calling an audible for Black 59 Razor.

In an interview with the Mercury News in 2012, Montana recalled Black 59 Razor as, “Basically maximum protection. Razor was just a combination route on the outside, with a post-corner, or ‘shake’ as we called it.”

The call breaks down like this:
“Black” – The live color signaling an audible. Starting off the call with “Black” tells the offense that this will be an audible, and they need to listen to the protection and play. If it were any color other than black, it would be a dummy audible and the offense could ignore it.

“59” – The protection call. It was a max protect call that allowed for the running backs to check their linebackers. If no blitz, late release on route. Same basic call for the tight ends.

“Razor” – The play call. Shake route (basically a post/corner route) from the flanker, paired with a post route or deep crossing route.

The best playbook example I could find from Razor comes from Jon Gruden’s 1998 Oakland Raiders offense. (Gruden coached under Holmgren in San Francisco in 1990, and in Green Bay from 1992-1994).

Contrary to popular belief, Montana’s Black 59 Razor check did not lead to a long TD to Jerry Rice. That call was 72 Reno X Post, but this is not the time to get into it. The actual Black 59 Razor would lead to an incomplete pass, due in large part to the blitz breaking through the line as Montana hit his back foot.

“We had the same play,” Favre later said on the America’s Team segment on the 1996 Packers, “we just changed the number system up.” The initial call was 323 Y Stick, with Favre telling everyone to “be alert for them to blitz” as they broke the huddle.

When he walked up to the line, he saw the Patriots’ safeties creeping up to the line, so he made the check to 74 Dino*.

The Packers are in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR), showing a balanced line with a tight end on each side, a single back directly behind Favre and a twins set on the outside with Antonio Freeman and Andre Rison.

Favre was looking for a blitz, and the Patriots saw the heavy, balanced line and crept up snuff out the run. That left the middle of the field wide open and man-to-man coverage on the outside. Dino was meant to attack that coverage. All Rison had to do was get his man on his heels and get inside position on the post and Favre would be able to lay it up over the top.

The slot defender follows Freeman to the outside, Rison gets Otis Smith turned to the outside and finds nothing but wide open places in the middle of the field. Easy as pie. Except not quite.

In an interview with Peyton Manning, Favre talked about the confusion on who would be running the post. Rison had only been with the team since week 12, and, while they had run Dino, they had never run it out of that specific formation. Favre was thinking that the post should be run by Rison, since he was the flanker, but neither Favre nor Freeman was entirely sure until Rison made the cut. Freeman was preparing to run the post, which is why his route is more of a fade to the sideline than a hard cut on the corner route. A hard cut takes him out of position for the post route, so Freeman hedged his bets and slow-played his route, just in case he had to make an emergency cut.

No emergency cut was needed by Freeman, as Rison made a nice hard cut to the post after selling a vertical route, hauled in a perfect pass and danced his way to the end zone.

And, lastly, I can’t let this play go by without pointing out the terrific blitz pick-up from Edgar Bennett as the single back.

Stones his man in the hole and gives Favre the time he needs to hit the pass down the field. Everything is beautiful.


*Favre calls for what sounds like “74 Dean-O”, so I’m assuming that was Dino based on the fact that Dino is a known concept, and the fact that I can’t find any reference to any variation of “Dean-o”. The complicating factor is that Dino is a double-post concept, where Razor is a post paired with a shake. I’m just assuming Dino (or Dean-O) was the audible tag and nothing more than that. (No one cares about this but I couldn’t let it go by without saying something.)


I hope you've been liking this series so far. Like my last post on the Lombardi Sweep, I really tried to dig into the history of this play, and it ended up taking me in directions I had no idea it would take me.

Going forward, these Film Room posts are not likely to be as in-depth on the historical side as these first two have been. I wanted to spend more time on these plays because they're iconic plays in Packers history. Going forward, I won't get into the historical depth I have been, but they're still going to be a blast. My goal in all of these is to view memorable Packers plays in a different way, or dig into them in a way I haven't seen them being dug into. Thanks for joining me on this ride.


Albums listened to: Poor Old Lu – A Picture of the Eighth Wonder; Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique; Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt; Pixies – Doolittle; Roy Orbison – Mystery Girl; Nirvana – Bleach; Johnny Cash – Unchained; Wilco – Being There; Black Eyed Sceva – 5 Years, 50,000 Miles Davis; Eels – Beautiful Freak; Joe Christmas – North to the Future; Over the Rhine – Good Dog Bad Dog; Willie Nelson – Spirit; Morella’s Forest – Ultraphonic Hiss; Counting Crows – Recovering the Satellites; Weezer – Pinkerton; Starflyer 59 – Plugged; DJ Shadow – Endtroducing; Velour 100 – Fall Sounds; Beck – Odelay; Nick Cave – Murder Ballads; REM – New Adventures in Hi-Fi; Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire; Havalina Rail Co. – Diamond in the Fish; Plankeye - Commonwealth

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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 (6)

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Since'61's picture

March 31, 2021 at 03:17 pm

I will remember it well. When I saw Bennett pick up
The blitz I was pretty excited that we were going to
hit a big play. Of course it was a TD and an even better result. It was a great way for the Packers to return to the SB after 29 years. Thanks, Since ‘61

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mnbadger's picture

March 31, 2021 at 05:36 pm

A great play to start the game, I saw the replay. I was bringing a freshly popped batch of buttery popcorn into a room filled with my wife, 3 sons a golden retriever and the Sony 27" 4x3 TV! With the touchdown, we had it all! GPG

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wildbill's picture

March 31, 2021 at 07:18 pm

What a great article!! Thanks for adding extra depth an awesome memory.

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candy's picture

March 31, 2021 at 11:56 pm

Thanks for sharing this information. I really like your blog post a lot. You actually shared an informative and interesting blog post with everyone.

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Vrog's picture

April 01, 2021 at 02:24 am

Dope.

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malta1099's picture

April 01, 2021 at 03:48 pm

So good, so good!!!! That refers to the play itself, but especially to your detailed analysis. As fantastic as your Lombardi sweep piece. THANK YOU!

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