After Brett Favre threw his 27th touchdown pass of the season -- an 8-yard, improvisational beauty to Sidney Rice -- he customarily high-fived and butt-slapped his way across the Minnesota Vikings' sideline.
It was a big day for Minnesota, which convincingly knocked off a tough AFC opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals, 30-10. It was also a big day for Favre, who had to prove to his teammates and coaches that the previous week's disastrous performance in Arizona was just a bump in the road. The loss in the desert was the first time all season Favre looked anything short of outstanding, and his doubters were out in full force.
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Favre's touchdown pass to Rice came midway through the second quarter, with the Vikings holding a slim 3-0 lead, on a third-and-goal play from the 8-yard line. One of the strengths of the Bengals is their third-down defense because of their wide variety of pressure packages and their two outstanding cornerbacks.
As Favre aligned in the shotgun, he saw two linebackers in the A-gaps ready to blitz through the middle of the line. Favre wisely changed his protection to account for the pressure, calling for all five offensive linemen to slide left. That audible took care of three of the four defensive linemen and the two blitzing linebackers.
The fourth defensive lineman would be unblocked off the edge. He was Favre's responsibility, and the ball would have to come out quickly.
The problem with the quick throw was that the Bengals did not blitz. After Favre changed the protection, the two linebackers dropped into coverage and were in position to take away the quick underneath throw. As a result, Favre was left with no hot throw and no one to block the defensive end. He had a free rusher in his face and no viable receiving option.
But then Favre did what he's done countless times in his career. He improvised.
With a little pump-fake, he got the defensive end off the ground. Favre then moved past him and bided time for his receivers to get open.
He made eye-contact with Rice, who was covered by an underneath linebacker. Favre's body-language told Rice to slide to the right, out from behind the linebacker and into an open area of the end zone. Rice, in perfect harmony with his quarterback, did just what Favre wanted and was rewarded with his fifth touchdown of the season.