Brett Favre has been a blitz-buster for Vikings this season
Veteran QB at his best under attack
By Rick Alonzo
Updated: 12/02/2009 11:26:13 PM CST
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre pushes away charging Chicago defender Harris on the way to an 8 yard completion to Bernard Berrian in the second quarter as the Chicago Bears lost to the Vikings 36-10 at the Metrodome Sunday afternoon November 29, 2009. (Pioneer Press: John Doman)Some quarterbacks self-destruct when attacked with blitz pressure. This season, Brett Favre has thrived.
His ability to break down opposing defenses' blitzes is a big reason the Vikings have the No. 2-ranked scoring offense in the NFL.
Favre's quarterback rating of 109.9 against the blitz ranks third in the NFL, behind only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, according to StatsPass. Favre has thrown seven touchdown passes and no interceptions with a 64.5 completion percentage (69 of 107) when blitzed.
"We have seen by far the most blitzes that I have ever seen," Favre said Wednesday. "A big part of it is the defenses in general. Pittsburgh is a blitzing team, Baltimore is a blitzing team, Green Bay is a blitzing team. We were getting a heavy dose of that, and we've handled it well."
Favre is on pace to finish with a better quarterback rating against the blitz than in any of the three seasons (1995-97) he won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. His statistics are impressive, but they tell only part of the story.
Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said Favre's success is based on a combination of factors.
"First of all, he's got tremendous field vision, so he sees things," Rogers said. "And then he's got tremendous understanding of how our protection works. If we need a redirection on who we're blocking, he's able to do that. I think over the years he's gotten real good at it through his film study, about recognizing tips and who's coming, where, and that kind of thing."
Favre is also able to unload the ball before he gets hit. He doesn't take many unnecessary sacks.
And don't underestimate Favre's ability to make adjustments in an instant, even when something goes wrong.
During Sunday's game against Chicago, with 52 seconds left in the half, the Vikings had a first down at the Chicago 49.
Favre was lined up in shotgun formation. The Bears decided to blitz and had a linebacker and a nickel back running free at the quarterback. Favre quickly recognized the problem and sidearmed a throw to Bernard Berrian on the left sideline.
"They never touched him," said Rogers, still amazed. "That's two guys unblocked. He made the mistake in the protection in terms of the direction call. But he knew it, and he got the ball out and hit Bernard. It was just unbelievable. Most people would have taken a sack or gotten beaned or something."
The play gained 8 yards, and the Vikings went on to a touchdown for a 24-7 halftime lead.
As Favre continues to make teams pay for blitzing him, it remains to be seen how much pressure he will face down the stretch this season.
"I think the Bears were a little bit more reluctant to pressure him than what we'd seen in previous games," Rogers said. "He knows he's one throw away from a big play. I think a lot of teams would prefer to die slowly."
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said blitzing Favre has its risks. He is athletic enough to escape pressure, and he has the arm strength to throw it anywhere on the field — and with accuracy.
And it's difficult to fool Favre by disguising defenses. He has seen just about everything during his 19 years in the NFL.
"It's hard to catch him off balance, and they anticipate and read things so quickly, and they know where they want to go with the football," Whisenhunt said. "It's definitely a tough situation because they can make you pay, especially with his ability to get the ball to one of his receivers or his running back or his check down, even his tight end."
Vikings teammates said it's almost as if Favre knows exactly what's coming before a team blitzes.
Favre joked that he would like to be able to say that, but that's not always the case.
"I don't think for any quarterback they can sit here and tell you what is coming," Favre said. "Teams nowadays do a great job of disguising."
With his cadence and snap count, Favre knows how to try to trick defenses into revealing what they're going to do.
"He will ID the front, redirect the front, read the coverage and then throw the ball on the money from any different body plane you've seen," Rogers said. "Totally unconventional with a lot of his throws, but usually pretty darn accurate at the same time. So it's the whole deal. It's just not how he avoids sacks. It's the whole process that he goes through on a single play and how fast he goes through it."
Based on what the defense might show before the snap, Favre knows how to adjust, and so do the linemen and receivers.
"He's so acclimated in this style of offense that he knows what plays to audible to, or what routes in the original play will be open," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "Even the guys here, they know how to break off their routes in hot situations; they know their adjustments."
Vikings coach Brad Childress said his assistant coaches are able to identify different looks when they study defenses on tape. And they pass that knowledge on to the players.
Childress noted that defenses typically come up with a new blitz they haven't shown often, if at all, and they keep running that blitz until an offense adjusts.
"I think we've had some decent answers," Childress said.
Berrian's touchdown late in the fourth quarter at Green Bay that sealed a 38-26 win is another example.
The Packers blitzed by overloading the left side of the Vikings' four-receiver formation, with two receivers on each side bunched tight. Each receiver ran a quick route, including Berrian, knowing pressure was coming.
The Vikings faced third and 11 from the Green Bay 16 when Favre threw quickly in the direction of the blitz, behind the pressure. Favre said he wasn't sure the Packers were going to blitz, but he stayed focused until he knew what the Packers were going to do.
"The good thing was I made the right read but Bernard's tempo was a little quicker," Favre said. "It's not that he ran a totally different route, there is just something that told him he better get his head around a little quicker."
Said Rogers of Favre: "Every week it just blows my mind how good he is."