Sunday, January 13, 2008
Observation Deck: Favre makes big plays seem like child's play
By Matt Mosley ESPN.com
We'll be watching the play for the next 50 years.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre desperately tried to keep his balance as he scrambled to the right in a snowstorm.
Seattle Seahawks All-Pro defensive end Patrick Kerney grabbed him from behind, Favre spotted tight end Donald Lee running alone and delivered the type of underhanded toss you'd make to a 5-year-old in the backyard.
The conversion on third-and-8 set up the Packers' fourth touchdown of the first half and seemed to demoralize a Seahawks defense that was caught on its heels all afternoon. With the 42-20 victory, the Packers will advance to the NFC Championship Game to face either the Giants or Cowboys.
"Yeah, man, it was a nice play by Brett," Lee said. "Anything that has to do with Brett, that involves him, you never say die, because he makes plays like that all the time. I mean, it starts with practice. You see him in practice, it seems like a play's blown, dead or whatever, and he wants to keep working. By doing it so much in practice, I know what it's going to be."
Of course Favre will be pulling for the Giants on Sunday, but listening to him talk after the game made you think he would relish another shot at the Cowboys.
Now, here are some of my observations from Saturday's divisional playoff games:
1. Two fullbacks make a difference
At a time when the fullback position seems on the verge of extinction, the Packers are heading the opposite direction. Like he's done several times over the last couple of years, coach Mike McCarthy used a pair of fullbacks to jump-start his team's running game. Korey Hall and John Kuhn, who've combined for 10 catches and zero carries this season, lined up next to each other in what some of us in the football business call the inverted wishbone or full-house backfield. According to my friends at footballoutsiders.com, the Carolina Panthers are the only other team that uses a similar formation.
The Packers went with their three-running back look at least eight times in the first half, including three of the four touchdown plays.
Kuhn and Hall destroyed the Seahawks' linebackers near the goal line, and running back Ryan Grant did a great job of reading their blocks. The Packers basically used the Seahawks' speed against them. The Seahawks overpursued when the Packers' line moved to its right, and Grant killed them with cutbacks. Grant was running too high early in the game. When he started lowering his shoulders through the tackle box, he was much more effective. I'm thinking Ted Thompson's not missing that sixth-round pick right now. And think how good rookie Ahmad Bradshaw must be for the Giants to have unloaded Grant.
2. Spot reversal turns out to be pivotal
With 5 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter, the Packers faced a third-and-7 at their 39-yard line. Brett Favre completed a short pass to Bubba Franks, who extended the ball toward the first-down marker as he was being tackled.
Officials spotted the ball a foot short, but Favre watched the replay on Lambeau Field's "Tundra Vision" and then lobbied for McCarthy to challenge the mark. The Packers won the challenge to extend the drive, and tied the game at 14-14 six plays later. It might not sound like much in a 42-20 game, but getting off the field on third down would have allowed the Seahawks to stem the Packers' momentum.
3. Seahawks' weakness exposed
The Seahawks have a strong front seven, but their secondary doesn't tackle well. That's a problem when you're playing against a group of receivers who are better than anyone in the league in running after the catch (RAC). It also didn't help against a running back who was desperately trying to atone for two early fumbles.
Seahawks safety Deon Grant was fifth on the team in tackles with 72 during the regular-season, but he didn't stand a chance against the Packers' Grant. On several runs, the running back froze the safety with a stutter-step in the open field. It obviously didn't help that the footing was terrible in the snow. When Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant tried to go low on Grant in the first half, Grant simply hurdled him.
4. Holmgren's future
I talked to a member of the Seahawks organization who said Mike Holmgren didn't sound like a coach who was ready to retire in the moments following Saturday's loss. Holmgren told his players they needed to be ready to go for the offseason. But he did choke up at one point during his postgame talk.
"He sounded like there was no doubt at all he's coming back," said the Seahawks official. "Anyone who heard that speech would tell you the same thing."
5. Tom Terrific and his 'little' friend:
Even by his lofty standards, Tom Brady was superb in Saturday's 31-20 New England Patriots victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But the play most people will be talking about is the 6-yard touchdown he threw to Wes Welker that gave the Patriots a 21-14 lead.
In what resembled the old Statue of Liberty play, the Patriots faked the direct snap to Kevin Faulk, a play they'd run before. But while everyone followed Faulk, Brady actually had the ball. He turned his back to the defense and threw his left arm into the air to sell the fake.
When he turned around, he had a full three seconds to survey the end zone before connecting with Welker.
"I'm looking for my Academy Award on that one," he joked after the game.
He said the Patriots put the play ("Double Pop") in during practice last week. The only problem he had was locating Welker.
"He's hard to find, he's 5-7," Brady said.
6. Garrard excelled, too
It's also important to point out that Jacksonville quarterback
David Garrard had a great night as well. He was 22 of 33 for 278 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception late in the game. And he pretty much matched Brady touchdown for touchdown until Dennis Northcutt dropped one. The Patriots wanted to put this game in Garrard's hands, and I thought he did enough to win.
7. What did the Jags do on defense?
Now the Jaguars' defensive approach is another story.
Jacksonville had cornerback Brian Williams follow Randy Moss all over the field. I was a little surprised because you'd think
Rashean Mathis would be the guy who'd shadow Moss. Williams obviously did a nice job, but Mathis was left covering Heath Evans on several plays. I'm not sure what the Jaguars' thought process was on that since Evans isn't one of the Patriots' major weapons.
Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com.