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 and the start of the next. Here's a
stop-action account 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
:40 After landing hard at the end of a 13-yard catch, Packers
wideout Antonio Freeman rises and shakes out 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 mike to
Reid. The Packers will go for the touchdown. Four wideouts will
spread across the field and streak toward 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
: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 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
: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 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
: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.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY FRED HARPER [Drawing of Brett Favre]
NINE COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS BY FRED HARPER [Illustrations of football plays between Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII, as seen through the eyes of Brett Favre]