Film Room: Favre, Cincinnati and the Birth of a Legend

Dusty goes back to 1992 and looks at a few plays that kicked off Brett Favre's career

Sometimes you’re the windshield

And sometimes you’re the bug

- Ancient proverb (that was also uttered by Bengals Defensive Coordinator Ron Lynn after this game)

With Don Majkowski leaving the game with an ankle injury, the Packers were forced to turn to their recently acquired back-up quarterback early in this game; one Mr. Brett Lorenzo Gunslinger Favre. And he was terrible for the vast majority of the game.

The statistics clearly back that up – Favre fumbling the ball 4 times is the real standout – and Favre himself has admitted as much in his book Favre. “I was all over the place. It was my first real chance in a pressure situation, and I wanted to do well at Lambeau Field, but I got off to a pretty rough start. I was playing pretty much by the seat of my pants and it showed.”

The Bengals weren’t content to just sit back and let this young QB get comfortable. In Favre: A Football Life, Favre recalled, “They blitzed me every single play in that game until the last drive.”

And the last drive is where we pick up today. The last Bengals drive ended in a field goal, pushing their lead to 23-17. On the ensuing kickoff, rookie wide receiver Robert Brooks fielded the punt and stepped out of bounds at the 8 yard line. With no timeouts, the Packers found themselves needing to drive 92 yards in 1 minute and 7 seconds.

So, with a quarterback who was actively looking for ways to throw the ball through the bodies of defenders, the Packers opened up with a 3 yard completion to fullback Harry Sydney. Oh, it was well-designed and Sydney was able to get out of bounds to stop the clock after 6 seconds, but it was a play that wasn’t exactly met with enthusiasm from the crowd.

The Bengals are showing 7 men close to the line, and this play stretches them horizontally. The wide receiver pushes vertically and the tight end flares out, pulling a linebacker with him. That leaves Sydney wide open in the flat.

There are a few really good reasons for this call. For starters, it gives Favre a nice, easy completion to start the drive. Give him some confidence to start off.

It also creates a bit of breathing room. Sure, 3 yards isn’t a ton, but the Packers are going to have to take some shots off of 5 and 7 step drops. Those 3 yards give the Packers a little more room to operate.

The last reason – the biggest reason – is to see what defense the Bengals are in. The assumption is that whatever they showed on the first play would be the philosophy for the entire drive. Would they blitz? Would they sit back?

This play saw the Bengals come out with two high safeties and had their linebackers drop back into their standard spot-drop zones underneath. That told Holmgren and the offense that the Bengals would rushing 4 and playing conservative, Cover 2 defense on the back-end. I’ve highlighted the key zones for the outside defenders and the deep safeties in your standard Cover 2 look:

As with any coverage, there are natural voids in the coverage. In Cover 2, the voids are between the cornerback and the safety up the sideline and the deep middle between the safeties. If you’re attacking basic Cover 2, those are the main areas to attack.

In basic Cover 2, the outside cornerbacks will attempt to force an inside release from the receiver, as an outside release would mean the deep safety would need a wider drop to pick him up. With an inside release, the receiver can still get to the outside, but he has to work back to the outside, taking more time and allowing the safety a better angle to cover.

After routing the receiver inside, the cornerback will "sink" with a vertical route from the receiver, while keeping eyes in the flat and attacking any short-breaking routes. Sinking with the receiver allows for the cornerback to carry a vertical route up the field and pass him off to the deep safety. As highlighted above, there's a gap in coverage during this process. In a Monday Night Football segment that lives in the deepest recesses of my mind, Jon Gruden referred to that area as “The Turkey Hole.” 

Back to the matter at hand. The 3 yard completion to Sydney showed that the Bengals were in Cover 2, and would likely remain in that coverage for the remainder of the drive.

On the very next play, Favre attacked the Turkey Hole, hitting Sterling Sharpe with a frozen rope up the sideline. Unfortunately, Sharpe was injured on the play, and came out a few plays later after Favre spiked the ball.

There were 19 seconds left, the Packers were at the 35 yard line and their star receiver had just left the game.

Enter Kitrick Taylor, a 5th round pick by the Chiefs in 1987 who was primarily a punt returner. Coming into the 1992 season, Taylor had caught 33 passes for 323 yards in his career.

With time running down and the Bengals staying in Cover 2, the Packers dialed up 2 Jet All Go.

If that page looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same concept the Packers used on the Dorsey Levens touchdown in the 1996 NFC Championship Game. Different alignment, same concept. Send the 4 primary receivers deep and hope someone springs open.

We don’t have the coaches film for this game so we can’t see the position of the safeties in the video, but we know there are two deep safeties. The safety on the side of Taylor is Fernandus Vinson. Vinson’s focus was on Jackie Harris up the seam.

I’m thinking Rod [Jones] is a world-class sprinter, so he’s going to run with [Kitrick Taylor]. He’s going to be with his man. I want to make sure and take away the easiest throw, which would have been right down that seam. And Brett pumped me…He pump-faked me down that seam and I bit. That’s when I said ‘aw, man.’ I can remember just the crowd going crazy.

The pump fake holds Vinson just long enough to keep that hole in the zone open for Favre to hit Taylor, but the coverage from Rod Jones allowed the window to be a little bigger than it probably should have been. He doesn’t jam Taylor off the line and easily allows him to get to the outside. He’s not pinning Taylor to the sideline and he’s also not funneling to the safety.

Defensive coordinator Ron Lynn would later talk about his choice of using Cover 2 on this drive. “There was still enough time left that [Favre] could have thrown an out and moved the ball and put themselves in a better position for a Hail Mary.” If we believe the comments of Vinson and Lynn are what was called, it seems that Jones' instruction was to keep an eye out for an out route, but also carry the route vertically if he needed to. Jones slow-plays the route, playing behind and looking to break on an out route. He eventually turns on the jets, but it was too late by that point.

The throw itself is perfect, hitting Taylor in-stride, over the trailing Jones and away from the closing Vinson.

James Campen – longtime offensive line coach for the Packers – was the center for Green Bay at the time. He had the perfect description.

It would be the only touchdown reception of Kitrick Taylor’s career. In fact, he would only catch 2 more passes in his entire NFL career: 1 the next week against the Steelers, and 1 as a member of the Broncos in 1993.

As for Favre, this was his second career touchdown and he went on to throw another 440 regular season touchdowns during his time in Green Bay. Not terrible.

One final note on this game. The defensive coordinator for the Bengals in this game was Ron Lynn. Lynn coached in the NFL from 1986-2004. In 2003, he was the defensive backs coach in Oakland for the famous Monday Night Football the day after the death of Irv Favre.

Albums listened to: Tom Waits – Bone Machine; The Jesus and Mary Chain – Honey’s Dead; Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience; The Verve – A Storm in Heaven; Catherine Wheel – Ferment; Ride – Going Black Again; R.E.M. – Automatic For the People; Lush - Spooky; Pavement - Slanted & Enchanted; Nine Inch Nails - Broken; Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine


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].

4 points

Comments (11)

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packerbackerjim's picture

June 30, 2021 at 03:48 pm

Talk about a deep dive! Good times.

1 points
TXCHEESE's picture

June 30, 2021 at 04:43 pm

Indeed good times. I remember my wife and I were flying back from our 5th anniversary trip to Jamaica. Sitting in the Dallas airport drinking a beer (as if I hadn't done that enough the past few days), and watching ESPN highlights. Saw this guy I didn't even know was our backup, come in a throw an absolute dart on that last pass. The guy about 3 seats down at the bar shouted "holy sh*t", did you see that throw"....and a legend was born!

3 points
blffan4's picture

June 30, 2021 at 04:48 pm

Huge Packers fan since I was 11. By this time (9/20/92), that's nearly 15 years into my Packers fandom. This game happened to be on by birthday and I latched on to Brett Favre immediately. I'd never seen anything like him in the NFL, let alone in a Packers uniform. I remember this game very well and how much hope it game a long suffering Packers fan to know we just might finally have found ourselves a real gamer QB. At the time, even Lynn Dickey quality would have been great but as it turned out, Favre was 1 of a kind and to be honest, I doubt we'll ever see another like him. Certainly, he has no equal with regard to durability and with the NFL concussion protocol in place now, I doubt anyone will ever even come close to his ironman streak. That said, it's equally unlikely anyone will approach his INT record either. Still, you always had a chance when Favre was under center because he would literally do anything to stay alive and try to win every play.

5 points
BamaPackFan's picture

July 01, 2021 at 09:40 am

My Father and I attended the game in Tampa Bay the week before this. Americas Pack sponsored it. We lost I think 31-3. In that game, Brett Favre played late in the game. Isn't that his 1st live play time for the Packers? Please confirm that. On the plus side I met Ray Nitschke and he signed my ball cap. I have that cap preserved today.

0 points
Bure9620's picture

June 30, 2021 at 05:30 pm

I was 9 years old.......

1 points
Leatherhead's picture

June 30, 2021 at 08:51 pm

It’s impossible to believe that a second year QB with no experience could come in and play well enough to win.

3 points
veteranviewer's picture

June 30, 2021 at 09:38 pm

Good stuff Dusty,thanks

0 points
wildbill's picture

June 30, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Was excited about that game as it did somewhat calm my anger about us giving up a first round pick for a third string QB sitting on the Falcons bench.

2 points
PeteK's picture

July 01, 2021 at 09:46 am

Tempered for me because I trusted that Wolf knew what he was doing better than most in the business.

0 points
Savage57's picture

July 01, 2021 at 05:24 am

Funny how when things were hopping craziest is when Favre was full on Favre.

Whether it was the elation of a TD throw to clinch a comeback or an overoptimistic INT to kill one, it was always going to be one hell of a finish.

Football is still just entertainment and either way, you left feeling like you got your money's worth.

7 points
Karuzzo's picture

July 21, 2021 at 01:41 pm

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0 points