Packers-Rams play of the game: Favre's fumble

PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence breaks down Brett Favre's fateful fumble, and tells how it could have been avoided.

In a season that seems destined to be filled with losses, it's hard to imagine a tougher loss to swallow than Sunday's 23-20 setback to the St. Louis Rams.

The key play, of course, was the Packers' final offensive play. The end zone view shows the ball being stripped away from Brett Favre. A blink-of-an-eye later, you see a wide-open David Martin practically begging Favre to throw a pass that's never going to be unleashed.

Before the critical play, though, the Packers made two mistakes — one by impressive rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings and the second by the coaching staff — that might have prevented the gut-wrenching ending from happening at all.

The first error came on the first play after the two-minute warning, with the ball at the Rams' 46-yard line. Favre whistled a hard but perfect strike to Jennings. Jennings, however, dropped the ball, wiping away what would have been, at the very least, an 18-yard gain. Who knows how the rest of the drive would have unfolded had Jennings held onto the ball.

The second error came after Noah Herron ran for 8 yards to set up a second-and-2 from the Rams' 20. The Packers called a timeout, with exactly 1 minute remaining.

With time running short, even high school teams will call two plays after a timeout. Not the Packers, apparently. After the timeout, Favre hit Jennings for a first down, and Favre hustled the Packers to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball to kill the clock.

What would have happened had the Packers lined up and run another play? Would an exhausted Leonard Little have found enough energy to get around right tackle Mark Tauscher to slap the ball away from Favre? Would the Rams' coaching staff been able to call the inside stunt that allowed defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy to run free up the middle, depriving Favre of a safe haven in the pocket?

Instead, by spiking the clock, the Rams got another chance to regroup. And they came up with the kind of play that separates 4-1 teams like the Rams from 1-4 teams like the Packers.

Little has averaged 11 sacks per year over his last five seasons, but on this Sunday, he might as well have been Rich Little or Chicken Little. He had exactly two tackles and one quarterback pressure in the game. On the final drive, Tauscher, Green Bay's best offensive lineman, had handled him with ease.

After Favre spiked the ball, you can see Little with his hands on his hips, gasping for breath as the Packers had run nine plays in rapid-fire fashion. According to reports, Little was dehydrated and needed IVs during halftime. He was a beaten man.

On the fateful play, Little tried a speed-rush maneuver around Tauscher. In the replay, it appeared Herron, while getting out on his route, ever-so-slightly interfered with Tauscher's steps as he got into position to engage with Little.

Meantime, defensive tackles Kennedy and LaRoi Glover ran an inside stunt. Glover engaged with center Scott Wells and right guard Tony Moll. Kennedy, who was being blocked by Daryn Colledge, disengaged and looped to the inside. Moll was too slow in recognizing the stunt, and Kennedy got a run at Favre. Had the stunt been picked up, Favre would have stepped forward and Tauscher would have pushed Little harmlessly out of the way.

With Kennedy coming up the middle, however, Favre was unable to step up in the pocket to avoid Little. Little knocked the ball our of Favre's hand, Kennedy wrapped up Favre, and a mad scramble ensued.

"I actually saw Leonard coming upfield hard," Favre said. "I was going to try to step up and buy a little time and maybe find a crease. But (Kennedy) looped around. Right at the last second, I felt him and kind of pulled back, and that's when Leonard reached around and got me with his hand."

Colledge had a shot at recovering, but, as the saying goes, that's the way the ball bounces. A player with better hands, defensive back Jerametrius Butler recovered.

Game over.

 

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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