Sometimes instincts can produce very positive results on the football field. Other times, they can produce a negative play. On Brett Favre's fourth touchdown pass vs. the Packers last Sunday, a 16-yarder to Bernard Berrian on third-and-11, the play was decided by the instincts of Favre and Packers safety Nick Collins.
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During a timeout before the play, Favre suggested a quick route combination that could beat the anticipated blitz by Green Bay's defense. With two receivers on each side, the Vikings ran mirrored routes -- with an eight-yard out and a three-yard quick flat on each side. Favre would take a three-step drop and get the ball out of his hands before the pressure could be a factor.
The only problem with the play call was that the routes wouldn't go the necessary 11 yards to get the first down. The deepest pattern was eight yards. There would have to be a catch-and-run scenario for the Vikings to convert.
As anticipated, the Packers blitzed. It was an overload from Favre's left side. As the play unfolded, Favre's instincts took over. He didn't even set his feet to throw, and as it turned out, he didn't have time to -- not because of the pressure, but because of Collins.
Collins started on the backside of the formation and was responsible for crossing the field to cover the area where Berrian was headed. He saw Berrian's route and knew the pass was coming. But instead of attacking the point where Berrian would catch the ball, he dove to break up the pass. He didn't get there in time.
Once the pass whizzed by Collins' outstretched arms, Berrian caught the ball at the seven-yard line. He still had two yards to go to reach the first down. If Collins had suppressed his instincts to dive, and instead attacked the point of reception, the Vikings likely would have faced fourth-and-2. It could have led to a completely different outcome in Lambeau.
You might say Collins' instincts betrayed him and his team. But a more accurate assessment would be that Collins' instincts were wrong only because Favre's instincts made them wrong. If Favre had taken the extra split second to plant his foot before he threw, Collins would have at least gotten a hand on the ball, and possibly even made an interception.
Somehow, Favre knew he needed to get the ball out when he did. I can't tell you how he knew and probably neither can he, but somehow he did. That is called instinct. Favre has always relied heavily on it, and this week it paid off.