Reporters Gary D'Amato, Pete Dougherty, Tom Silverstein and Bob McGinn share some of their stories of covering Brett Favre's career. (Aug. 5, 2016) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Editor's note: This is an edited version of an article that was originally published Aug. 5, 2016.
Twenty-five years ago this week, Brett Favre started the game as the Packers' backup quarterback. By the end of it, he had the first win of his Hall of Fame career.
Favre appeared in two games with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 before being traded to Green Bay and made his first appearance off the bench for the Packers on Sept. 13, 1992, in Tampa Bay. The next week, the 0-2 Packers hosted the 2-0 Cincinnati Bengals, the first brick in the path that led Favre to Canton.
In the first quarter, Bengals defensive tackle Tim Krumrie rolled into the ankle of Packers starting quarterback Don Majkowski, knocking him out. That brought in Favre, a 22-year-old with 18 career passing attempts to his name.
Krumrie: I didn’t take pride in it, but it was always a funny story over the years that Brett had so much success and then when he did get inducted in the Hall of Fame, it was all because of me (laughs).
I don’t know if that was my mindset or not, but Don was a good football player and anytime a good football player goes out, you always consider that’s the reason why he’s in front at the time. Obviously, they felt he was the better player at that time.
Bengals kicker Jim Breech: When you get a backup quarterback in the game, you typically think ‘oh yeah, we’ve got a great chance now.’ We started off 2-0 and we were going to have our third win and it’s going to be awesome. And this guy, they can’t even pronounce his name — I think they called him ‘Fav-ray’ — comes in the game and the rest is history.
Second-year Bengals safety Fernandus “Snake” Vinson had played against Favre in two collegiate post-season bowl games, intercepting him once in a Senior Bowl practice.
Vinson: I believed that we were going to get some more picks. I just knew we were going to be OK because him getting this opportunity because of the injury to the other quarterback, they weren’t going to be as prepared for that game so he was going to take some chances. That’s what I was thinking.
Bengals defensive coordinator Ron Lynn: We knew that he had not played much for the Packers and had not kind of maybe lived up to the expectations in Atlanta, but we knew he was a high-round draft pick so we knew that everybody liked his physical skills. There wasn’t any question about whether he could or would eventually become at least a real solid player in the league. I don’t know if anybody at that point, except with the possible exception of the Packers, thought that he would be a great, great player.
By Saturday morning, if not by Friday morning, from a game-caller’s standpoint, I always went over; just to go back and look at some snaps of this guy to see what he could and couldn’t do. It was about what we thought. I always had paid attention in the draft rooms when these guy’s names come up, so I had some memory of who he was and what his potential was and what he could do.
The Bengals took a 10-3 lead into the half, thanks to a 95-yard punt return touchdown by Carl Pickens.
Bengals running back Eric Ball: I’m like ‘What the heck are you doing, man? You’re crazy!’ I’m the personal protector on that and I’m running back down there and the next thing I know he’s past me and I see him going for the touchdown.
Breech: I was like ‘No! What are you doing!? No! No! Go! Go! Oh my God, he’s going to score!”
In the third quarter, the Bengals stretched the lead to 17-3 when Ball took a pass from Boomer Esiason 17 yards for a score.
Bengals safety Barney Bussey: We had ‘em beat, honestly.
The fourth quarter became interesting when the Packers’ Terrell Buckley cut the lead to 17-10 with a punt return touchdown of his own. Breech hit field goals from 34 and 41 around Brett Favre’s first career touchdown, a 5-yard pass to Sterling Sharpe to make it 23-17.
Breech: Nobody saw it coming, right?
Krumrie: It was a surprise. Anytime you don’t have a ton of film on somebody, you don’t study ‘em and a guy comes in like Brett who could run, throw, scramble, we had our hands full here with this cat.
Ball: You’re like ‘Who is this guy?’ I mean you’re sitting on the sideline and you’re watching him move the ball up and down the field. ‘Majik Man’ had such a hype that when he got knocked out of the game you’re like, yes, all right, this is ours. Then it’s like ‘Who is this No. 4?’ And he’s bombing away and throwing the ball and all of a sudden we’ve got a game here.
That set the stage, as Favre took the ball at his own 8-yard line with a little over a minute to go.
Vinson: On the sideline, we were amazed that that game had gotten that close because we really were beating them up pretty good. Once the game got closer, we knew they were going to have to go deep.
After a completion to Sharpe at the Bengals’ 35 knocked the wide receiver out of the game, Kitrick Taylor lined up opposite Bengals corner Rod Jones. Vinson was playing over the top of the defense as Lynn called for a Cover 2 look.
Lynn: We considered a lot of things at the point in time. There was still enough time left that he could have thrown an out and moved the ball and put themselves in better position for a Hail Mary. That’s why we were playing a two-deep zone at the time.
When the ball was snapped, Krumrie nearly sacked Favre, only the quarterback pushed himself free.
Krumrie: Yup, I nearly did. But you know how that goes: one step behind, you’re you-know-what out of luck.
Bussey was defending the tight end in the seam, a target Vinson thought Favre would seek out.
Vinson: My focus was the shortest route, the quickest way they could get it, was to go right down the seam.
Bussey: We had discussed it right before they came out in that formation. My job was to carry the tight end down the middle of the field. We knew the only way they were going to beat us was with a touchdown.
Free of Krumrie, Favre pumped to the middle of the field. That left Jones alone on Taylor, and the Packers receiver got a step. Favre fired. Vinson scrambled fruitlessly to recover.
Lynn: I’ve watched it in my mind 100 times.
Vinson: I’m thinking Rod is a world-class sprinter, so he’s going to run with his man. He’s going to be with his man. I want to make sure and take away the easiest throw, which would have been right down that seam. And Brett pumped me. After that game, he told me he remembered me from the All-American Bowl and the Senior Bowl. He pump-faked me down that seam and I bit. That’s when I said ‘aw, man.’ I can remember just the crowd going crazy.
Bussey: Somehow or another, I don’t know what Fernandus did, why he bit, but he wasn’t deep enough and Brett threw a perfect pass down the sideline.
Breech: How we allowed that to happen is still, to this day, beyond me.
Favre had engineered the first of 30 career fourth-quarter comebacks. He went 22 for 39 for 289 yards and two scores and was not intercepted against the Bengals. The first pages of the first chapter in the legend of Brett Favre were authored.
Lynn: Sometimes you’re windshield and sometimes you’re the bug (laughs).
Vinson: One of my friends, I don’t know if they were showing highlights about that Green Bay game, it was maybe five, six years ago, and he called me like ‘Snake, was that you that got beat by Brett Favre?’ I said ‘What are you talking about?’ He said that last-second play that he threw a touchdown that really started his career. I said yeah, man. That was me. That was me. So I think about that of course at times like this. That was when he really came on the scene, was after that game.
Being a competitor, being an athlete, there are moments in our lives where it is a ‘I can do this’ moment. And I believe with Brett, that was his.
Krumrie: I say it smart-alecky, but Brett owes me a can of ‘pop.’ (laughs)
Breech: I always say, hey, it started against us. We made Brett Favre. We made Joe Montana with that last drive (in Super Bowl XXII), we made Brett Favre with that comeback against us in that first game that he played of his string of consecutive games played. It’s come up a lot over the years. Looking back, it’s kind of cool to say well, we were there at the beginning and the guy turned out to be one of the great players of all time. But, heck, you still don’t want to lose the game, right? You never want to lose.
Bussey: For that to be a starting point, everything was looking up for him. I think he deserves it. Yeah, we can look this weekend and say, hey, we played against this guy several times, but this is where it all started at. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good for us.
Ball: That’s literally what you say: I was there for the beginning of it. We were his opponent. It’s just one of those things where you never know how a career goes. You knew that all of a sudden, he did something special, but you didn’t know it was going to be 20 years special.
Watch the final drive here:
Note: Ron Lynn was Oakland’s defensive coordinator for perhaps Favre’s most memorable regular season game, his 399-yard, 4-touchdown effort on Monday Night Football the day after his father, Irv, passed away on Dec. 22, 2003.
See Page 1 of our print coverage of the game below: