Archive for the Game Recap Category


Brett Favre Proves Revenge Is a Dish Best Served at Lambeau

In Brett Favre’s second comeback news conference, he stated playing for the Minnesota Vikings was not about revenge. Only Favre himself knows if the statement was true or not.

Still, the Vikings 30-23 win in Minnesota in week four made the rematch in Green Bay that much bigger. Minnesota had not swept the Packers since 2005, and Green Bay could show the home fans they made the right choice in Aaron Rodgers.

In Favre’s first return to Lambeau Field as a visitor, his numbers were outstanding. Favre completed 17-of-28 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns.

Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s counterpart, played just as good as the future Hall-of-Famer. Rodgers completed 26 of 41 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.

The current Packers quarterback had more passing yards than the former Packers quarterback primarily because Green Bay was playing from behind for the most part. Minnesota was able to build a 17-3 lead at the half.

To start the second half, the Vikings took the opening kickoff and marched down field to take a 24-3 lead. Just when it looked to be a Minnesota blowout, the Packers came storming back.

Rodgers led the Packers to 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to make the score 24-20 in favor of the Vikings heading in to the fourth quarter. The Green Bay comeback had all the momentum swinging to the home sideline.

That is when No. 4 did what he used to do for the Packers for so many years. Favre lead the Vikings down for a touchdown two minutes into the fourth quarter for a 31-20 lead.

Rodgers, not to be outdone, brought Green Bay right down the field three minutes later for a touchdown to cut the lead to 31-26 after a two-point conversion failed. The aging gunslinger put the final nail in his old team’s coffin with another touchdown with less than four minutes to go for the 38-26 win.

Looking closely at the numbers, there are several reasons why Minnesota won this football game. The first reason was pressure on the quarterback.

The Vikings were able to hit Rodgers 10 times, compared to just four hits the Packers managed on Favre. The biggest number was the number of sacks for both teams. The Vikings had six sacks, and the Packers were not able to sack Favre once.

Another reason for the Packers’ loss has to be the lack of a running game. Rodgers was the leading rusher for Green Bay, with 52 yards on five carries. The bulk of Rodgers’ yards coming on a scramble for 35 yards in the fourth quarter.

While Rodgers led his team in rushing, Favre only had to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson to gain yards on the ground. Peterson was able to rush for 97 yards on 25 carries to lead Minnesota in rushing.

The Packers have to find a running game to ease some of the pressure off Rodgers. The Packers quarterback is already the most-hit signal-caller in the league, and if he has to be the running back as well he will not last the whole season.

The final reason for this Packers loss is easy. The job at returning kicks by Percy Harvin for Minnesota. Harvin had five kick returns for 175 yards, and three of his returns set-up a touchdown for Vikings.

Harvin has been an x-factor all season long for the Vikings. He even had a 51-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter while Minnesota was building its first half lead.

With both games against the Packers out of the way, bigger questions loom on the horizon. The Vikings have a bye week after this game, but how will Favre fare for the rest of the season?

Does Brett still care about the rest of this season after beating his old team twice this season? Is the ultimate revenge Favre can give himself a Super Bowl championship?

At 7-1 and with the second best record in the NFC—until the Saints play Monday—the Vikings and Favre will be watched closely all season long. The defense has to play two whole haves and Favre’s health could be an issue. Still, how much Brett wants to rub it in the Packers’ nose could be his major motivation.

The second fallout of this whole scenario could be the job security of Packers GM Ted Thompson, the man many believe sent Favre out of town. With every Vikings win and every Green Bay loss, all eyes must turn to Thompson.

Playing the “what-if” game, one has to wonder what will happen with Thompson if the Packers miss the playoffs and the Vikings make a deep playoff run, or win a championship. The heat will only increase with every step Minnesota takes to a playoff berth.

Thompson believes he has built a solid team, and Favre’s end-of-season “will he or won’t he” could no longer be tolerated. Thompson’s biggest fear has to be Favre having one more championship season left in him.

If Favre does win a championship, Thompson will not be alone in this and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will be on the chopping block with him. Green Bay will have to choose a sacrificial lamb depending on how well the Vikings do this season.

On the other hand, Minnesota GM Rick Spielman and head coach Brad Childress look brilliant so far by taking a chance on Favre. Both will be safe as long as the Vikings make the playoffs and play for at least an NFC Championship.

Lost in all the Thompson versus Favre talk is Rodgers. Replacing a legend is hard, but replacing a legend who is still playing is even harder. Just ask Steve Young.

Rodgers will always be judged by what Favre did as a Packer. Every success the Vikings have only makes it harder for Rodgers to be completely accepted by Packers fans.

If Favre leads Minnesota to a title, even diehard Packers fans will always wonder what if Green Bay had kept No. 4 behind center. This team was so close in 2007 to a Super Bowl berth, another season missing the playoffs will only add more undue pressure on Rodgers.

Either way, Rodgers may not ever be as loved as Favre is in Green Bay. The only way to change those feelings is Brett not winning another Lombardi Trophy and Rodgers bringing one back to Green Bay himself.

Well, Rodgers had better make that two Lombardi Trophies. The NFL is always about one-upping the other guy. So far, Favre is up 3-0, two wins this season, and one NFL championship. 

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Vikings-Packers: Brett Favre Throws Four TDs in Return to Lambeau

Brett Favre threw for four touchdowns in his return to Lambeau Field as the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Green Bay Packers 38-26.

After a lopsided first half, the game developed into a battle of quarterbacks past and present as Favre went head-to-head with Aaron Rodgers.

Favre tied Dan Marino’s record of 21 games of four or more TDs, throwing for 244 yards on 17 of 28 passing and helping Minnesota improve to 7-1 on the season.

After being sacked four times in the first half, Aaron Rodgers fought valiantly to bring the Packers back from a 21-point deficit, only to fall short in the end. 

Green Bay racked up just 47 yards of total offense in the opening 30 minutes—its lowest in a decade—but Rodgers dug deep after the interval, finishing with 287 yards through the air on 26 of 41 passing and 52 more on the ground. 

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches and Percy Harvin caught five balls for 84 yards and a TD.

Favre made 275 consecutive starts for Green Bay over 16 seasons between 1992 and 2008, but he never received the kind of reception he did on Sunday afternoon.

Favre was greeted by a chorus of boos when he came out to warm up, a second round of jeers when he ran out onto the field—head down—at the start of the game, and once more when the Vikings’ offense entered the game three-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter.

He connected on his first two passes, a 3-yard completion to Harbin, and a third-down pass up the middle to Taylor that was good for 20.

After a pair of short runs for little gain, Favre missed Benard Berrian on 3rd-and-9 to bring the punt team onto the field. When he re-entered, Green Bay had put points on the board.

Green Bay took a 3-0 first quarter lead, but Minnesota hit back with a 1-yard touchdown run and 12-yard TD pass to establish a 14-3 advantage.

The Vikings took a 17-3 lead into halftime following a 41-yard field goal, and Favre threw for his second score early in the third quarter to make it 24-3.

Green Bay then scored 17 unanswered points of its own to make it a four-point game, but Minnesota hit back with a TD for an 11-point cushion.

Unfazed, the Packers put six more on the board in the fourth quarter, but Favre and the Vikings scored once more to put the game to bed.

The Packers took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Crosby after the Vikings turned the ball over on the first play of their second possession.

Favre appeared to step up to the line to change his protection, but the center snapped the ball early, throwing it off Favre’s leg and onto the ground. 

Percy Harvin took the resulting kick-off 77 yards to the Green Bay 14, and Adrian Peterson took the ball to the house on 4th-and-goal from inside the one.

The Vikings would have had to settle for a field goal, but Jonathan Jolly was penalized for a headbutt immediately after the Packers had stopped Minnesota on third down at the nine-yard line.

Minnesota doubled their score in the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe, topping off a seven-play, 51-yard drive after receiving the ball in great field position at midfield.

Green Bay caught a break on Minnesota’s following drive as a Packers’ penalty actually helped saved them from going behind even further.

Crosby later missed a 51-yard field goal for Green Bay with 5:38 remaining in the game, and Favre came back down the field for his 21st game of four or more touchdowns when he connected with Berrian on a 16-yard reception.

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Minnesota Vikings Impress In A Game They Had No Business Losing

Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a painful game for the Minnesota Vikings, to be sure, but one they had no business losing.

Plenty of things went right for the NFC North-leading Vikings, who stuck with the favored Pittsburgh Steelers for virtually the entire game. Questionable play-calling and poor luck got in between Minnesota and a perfect record, though, and the Vikings fell to 6-1 on the season.

Heading into the game, much ado was made regarding the injury and absence of Minnesota corner back Antoine Winfield. The Viking’s best defensive back, Winfield would force the Steelers to think twice before launching the ball down field.

With Winfield out for a month, the consensus among fans was that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would have at least one receiver open all day. It was thought he would be free to pick apart the corner back-by-committee approach the Vikings would take.

During the game, few throws were lofted downfield. The only extended period of time when Roethlisberger was able to consistently find open receivers for 20-25 yard gains was at the end of the first half, when Minnesota was implementing a soft cover-two defense with extremely deep safeties.

Other than that 1:39, the Steelers were held mainly to the ground. This wasn’t of particular concern to Pittsburgh, however, as they managed to have success against the suddenly-porous Minnesota rush defense.

In the first half, the Minnesota defense was surprisingly solid. Despite having to deal with horrible field position because of awful punting, the Vikings held Pittsburgh to just three points (not including the touchdown resulting from the poor defensive scheme at the end of the half.)

Earlier in the half, however, Minnesota had perhaps the best offensive drive of the season. Going 76 yards on 13 plays, Brett Favre led Minnesota down the field with methodical dips and dukes to his receivers.

The perfect picture of Minnesota’s ideal offense was painted when Favre mixed in the occasional 15-20 yard heave to Sidney Rice. If opposing defenses want to know how to stop the Vikings, they need look no further than the drive that resulted in an Adrian Peterson two-yard touchdown dive.

Minnesota had the ball with 3:30 remaining in the half while holding a slim lead. Completing one first down, the Vikings found themselves near midfield, and in prime position to add to their lead going into the half. If coach Brad Childress didn’t feel comfortable going for the end-zone, another acceptable strategy would have been running the clock down.

Instead of going for the points or consuming time, however, Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell accessed their infuriatingly conservative playbook. The play that stuck out the most, though, was on third-and-15, with just under two minutes remaining in the half.

Bevell called for a Chester Taylor dive up the middle, in essence forfeiting the drive. Minnesota was forced to punt, and Roethlisberger took over at his own nine-yard line with 1:39 remaining. That drive resulted in a touchdown.

Rashard Mendenhall tore apart the Vikings during the first drive of the second half, which ended in a Pittsburgh field goal to push the score to 13-7.

With seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Childress called for the Vikings to attempt a fourth-and-one from Pittsburgh’s 35 yard line, much to the joy of Minnesota fans everywhere.

Favre connected with Sidney Rice for the first down, who ran the ball down the one-yard line to set up the eventual Minnesota field goal. The relationship that has developed between Rice and Favre is certainly worth mentioning and probably deserving of its own column.

Without the mentoring and right arm of Favre, Rice would have never reached the level of performance he has so far this year. Putting up two consecutive 100-yard games, Rice has impressed upon Vikings’ fans the importance of a veteran in the locker room.

Later in the third quarter, the Steelers were in a first-and-goal position thanks to two big plays from Mendenhall and Santonio Holmes. A touchdown would have given Pittsburgh a 10-point advantage, but a Mendenhall fumble helped spark a long Minnesota drive.

Following three penalties early in the fourth quarter, Minnesota faced a third-and-18 from their own 23-yard line. Needing a big play to keep the potential go-ahead drive alive, Rice did his best impression of Vikings’ great Cris Carter on the right sideline, completing a 25-yard pass that was originally ruled an in-completion.

Perhaps the most frustrating penalty call of the game occured at the most inopportune time for the Vikings. A 10-yard touchdown throw to Rice was nullified by a supposed tripping penalty (seen at the 2:00 mark of NFL-Scoreboard-Vikings-Steelers-highlights”>this video ) by Jeff Dugan.

This penalty fueled a 14-point turn around for the Steelers, as they forced a fumble and ran the ball across the field for a touchdown, putting the score to 20-10.

Rookie receiver Percy Harvin ran the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown of his own, though, giving Minnesota the momentum despite still being down by three points.

The highlight-reel clip of the game came from Peterson in the play directly following the two-minute warning. Facing a critical third-and-four from his own 45-yard line, Favre shuffled a quick pass to Peterson up the middle.

Turning around after catching the ball, Peterson saw Pittsburgh’s William Gay six inches from his face. Instead of attempting a spin, or juke, Peterson simply lowered his head and continued plowing forward for a gain of 29 yards. (See it here at the 3:06 mark. )

In the red zone with under two minutes to play, Favre had the chance to give the Vikings a four-point lead, but tossed the ball a bit too high to Chester Taylor. Unable to hold on, the ball slipped through Taylor’s hands right into a Pittsburgh defender, who returned it for another Steeler touchdown, sealing the fate of the Vikings.

Although now with a blemished record, the Vikings hung with a very solid team at a hostile location. Remove a few questionable play-calls and a fluke interception, and Minnesota is still one of the best teams in the league.

That said, there are certainly some things the Vikings need to improve. While the conservative play-calling at critical times in the game probably won’t cease, Minnesota would be doing themselves much good by working on both late-game pass defense and offensive tackling.

Next week, providing they are able to keep Aaron Rodgers upright, the Green Bay Packers will have a much easier time exploiting the absence of Winfield in the secondary. Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah, and Asher Allen all need to be at the top of their games.

Despite the great performance put up by the Vikings on Sunday against the Steelers, some improvement will be needed in order to maintain their leg-up on the rest of the NFC North.

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Vikings-Steelers: Referees Ruin a Great Game

I don’t think too many Vikings fans were shocked at the result of Sunday’s game versus the Steelers.

We knew this was going to be a tough game. After all, the Vikings were without their lone Pro Bowl player in the secondary, Antoine Winfield, while the Steelers got their stout safety, Troy Polamalu, back from injury.

However, the Vikings played very well on both sides of the ball. They gave up a few big runs to Rashard Mendenhall, but at the same time held quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in check for the majority of the game.

The secondary proved that they can rebound from such a dramatic blow. Cornerback Benny Sapp played excellently, but his lone mistake came from a stupid late hit on Roethlisberger as the star quarterback ran out of bounds.

Karl Paymah again proved that he can’t tackle. All three of Mendenhall’s 10-plus-yard runs were to Paymah’s (twice) and Sapp’s (once) sides. That was one area where Winfield was missed the most.

The secondary held Roethlisberger to 175 yards on 14-for-26 passing through the air with a touchdown. That’s outstanding for the secondary, especially considering Big Ben came into the game leading the league in passing yards.

Hines Ward, who many thought would have a huge game, was held to just one catch for three yards. Again, fantastic job by the secondary.

Adrian Peterson was kept at bay for most of the game. He managed only 69 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown but caught four balls for another 60 yards.

Questionable play calling held Peterson back. Those runs to the outside won’t work well against a team like the Steelers, who have extremely fast linebackers.

I think running through the middle would have worked better. Two of Peterson’s best runs were up the middle, one of which he cut outside anyway.

How about that Sidney Rice guy, huh? The kid has matured into a fantastic receiver. He ended the day with 11 catches for 136 yards. The guy is simply amazing. We couldn’t have asked for more.

Brett Favre was solid after the first quarter. His two mistakes were the result of great defensive coverage and a dropped pass by Chester Taylor. He threw the ball 51 times and completed 34 of them for 334 yards.

That dropped pass by Taylor finally decided the game. Granted, the ball was thrown higher than it should have been, but it was still very catchable.

Overall, this was a great game between two great teams.

The only thing that kept it from being fantastic was the horrendous officiating.

A mysterious tripping penalty erased what would have been the go-ahead touchdown to Rice late in the fourth quarter. Not even the announcers could describe where the call came from.

On the same drive, Favre ended up fumbling the ball and having it returned by the Steelers for a touchdown.

Just minutes before, a holding penalty erased a 34-yard completion to Rice. Replays showed that Bryant McKinnie merely pushed James Harrison to the ground (or at Favre, depending on your take).

Does anyone remember that defensive delay of game call on the Vikings? I didn’t see any defenders move out of the ordinary, but on a 3rd-and-4, I guess the officials had already decided who was going to win

Don’t get me wrong, the Vikings got away with a few calls too, but the degree of the three calls against the Vikings were of much greater significance.

I’ll be excited to see the head of officiating defend the tripping call later this week.

Who knows? Had those penalties not been called, the Steelers could have won anyway. We’ll never know though.

The only thing for certain is that the Steelers beat the Vikings by three, and the officials beat the Vikings by at least seven. It’s never fun seeing your team lose, but when they lose a game partly due to terrible officiating, it’s that much worse.

The Steelers took advantage of a fumble and an interception and made the Vikings pay dearly. They won the game, and I give credit where it’s due.

All I want for Christmas is some better officiating, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait at least another two months to get that wish, if ever.

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Minnesota Vikings Survive Baltimore Ravens 33-31, Despite Poor Clock Management

As brilliant as the Vikings have been recently in their ability to score in the first quarter, they have been as simple in their attempts to manage the clock and score in the fourth quarter to finish off their opponents.

On the last play of the game, Baltimore Ravens kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal wide left.  The Vikings had won their second game of the season within the last two seconds of the game.

 The Vikings stand 6-0 and are one of only four remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL.   Ordinarily players on a team that is 6-0 would be ear to ear with smiles in their post game interviews.

However, smiles were scant in the locker room.  After all the Ravens had scored 21 points against the Vikings defense in the fourth quarter and had marched down the field to position themselves to kick the game winning field goal.

All of the Vikings knew that they were fortunate to escape with their sixth win after their fourth quarter collapse.

The Vikings stood at 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.  The game should have been over given the experience of the defense and the weapons on the offense.   Yet, ultimately the game was decided by the Ravens field goal kicker.

The main reason for the Vikings collapse was due to poor tackling in the second half.  Ravens running backs and receivers ran over, through and around the linebackers and secondary of the Vikings. 

Part of the explanation for the lacking of tackling by the Vikings is attributable to injuries. All-Pro Antoine Winfield left the game with a toe injury in the second quarter and nickel back Benny Sapp missed most of the second half feeling the effects of a helmet to helmet hit.   

While Winfield and Sapp are key players, the Vikings can’t afford the drop off in execution when one or both of them are not in the game. The Vikings will likely be shopping for some secondary help before the trade deadline.

The most disturbing part of the Vikings collapse against the Ravens however was the self-inflicted wound brought about by their play calling in the fourth quarter. 

Before criticizing the Vikings execution in the fourth quarter, lavish praise for the play calling of the Vikings and what they have recently been able to do in the first quarter is due.  In their past three games, the Vikings have scored five touchdowns with the six possessions that they have had in the first quarter. 

Against the Ravens, the Vikings deftly kept the Ravens guessing mixing up their runs and passes early in the game.  On the first drive the Vikings had three running plays and three passes; on their second drive they had three running plays and four passes.  Favre even mixed up his passing targets as he went to five different receivers in the first two drives of the game.

Clearly, the Vikings coaching staff is able to identify weaknesses in their opponents defensive schemes and design and successfully implement an initial offensive game plan.

In watching the Vikings last two home games, Vikings fans had to wonder why their coaching staff wasn’t as effective in the fourth quarter in generating points and managing the clock.  Yes, the last two home games .

The Vikings almost squandered a 30-14 fourth quarter lead against Green Bay three weeks ago.  At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Vikings stopped using play action and went to simple trap plays.

The Packers took advantage of the gift scoring a touchdown with 3:40 in the fourth quarter to bring the score to 30-20.  The Vikings recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Green Bay 45-yard line. 

At this point, if the Vikings can get a first down or two the game is over.  Two first downs and the Vikings will have drained the Packers of their time outs, they can kick a field goal within Ryan Longwell’s range, and they leave the Packers without enough time to tie the game.

The Vikings go conservative and are content simply to run the ball on the first two downs to exhaust the Packers timeouts.  On third down, the Vikings run a flag route resulting in an incomplete pass. 

The flag route was not disguised in anyway.  There was no fake pitch to the running back to bring the safety up. 

A stop and go route would have at least given Favre an opportunity to sneak a pass in using a pump fake.  Once the receiver demonstrated that he couldn’t run pass the corner back, Favre threw the ball harmlessly out of bounds.

The Vikings possession gave them no opportunity to add any points, lasted all of 29 seconds and allowed the Packers to use the two minute warning as an additional time out.  

The Packers being gracious guests accepted the gift and marched down for a field goal.   While the Packers had no timeouts left they were now within seven points of the Vikings preparing to kick an onside kick. 

Disaster was avoided when the Vikings recovered the on-side kick.

Against the Ravens it was déjà vu all over again.

The Vikings had the ball the on the Ravens 18 yard line with 2:51 in the game.  At the time, the Ravens were winning the game at 31-30.  The Ravens had two timeouts remaining.

The Vikings clearly wanted to have the Ravens use all their time outs and wanted to run down the clock as much as possible to leave the Ravens with only a few seconds to score.

The most pressing need for the Vikings was to score and to take the lead as they were behind.   Preferably the Vikings would score a touchdown as a field goal would leave the Ravens the opportunity to win the game with their own field goal.

The Vikings with the ball on the Ravens 18 went ultra-conservative. The Vikings pounded the ball up the middle with three straight Adrian Peterson runs gaining four yards.  The Vikings were clearly content with Baltimore calling their remaining two timeouts and having Ryan Longwell kick a 31-yard field goal to give them a two-point lead.

After the kickoff, Baltimore started their final possession at the 33-yard line with 1:46 left in the game.  The strategy worked for the Vikings.

However, the three running plays called by the Vikings at Baltimore’s 18-yard line appeared to be playing not to lose as opposed to the Vikings playing to win the game.

The Vikings didn’t need to call a flea flicker or a double reverse on the 18-yard line, but they should have at least called one play that was some type of play-action or bootleg for Favre. 

If the play works the Vikings have a chance to score a touchdown or at the very least run more time off the clock as they would have obtained a first down.   

The Vikings defense had not stopped the Ravens from moving the ball in the second half.  Scoring a touchdown on the Ravens would have at least forced the Ravens to go for the entire length of the field to take the lead.   

Yes, calling such a play is dangerous in that there is a chance for an interception.  However, the benefits far outweigh the minimal risk.

Favre has 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions and had not made a bad throw in the game.  Worst case, Favre takes a knee for a five-yard loss if he sees nothing open.  Longwell’s kick is a little longer but it is still a relatively easy 36-yard field goal.

The chance of success on play action with a pass was not insignificant.  The Vikings scored three touchdowns against the Ravens in the red zone.  All three touchdowns came on pass plays.  The Vikings final touchdown pass of the day by Favre came after he faked a pitch to Peterson.

Sometimes you win by playing it safe.  The Vikings won by playing it safe on Sunday as the Ravens missed the field goal as time expired. 

However, sometimes playing it safe allows your opponent an opportunity to beat you; and sometimes they are willing to oblige. The Vikings need to stop being such gracious hosts as they have the talent to have the route to the Super Bowl go through the Metrodome.

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Undefeated Minnesota Vikings Remain Unknown

How can a 6-0 team look so dominant and so mediocre in the same game? 

What am I saying; the Vikings have done this all year.  It’s habit, now.  An addiction.

Step one: Get out to a big, early lead.  Look like the second coming of Lief Erickson storming Newfoundland.

Step two: Go into a shell while waiting for the other team to score, turtle-style.

Step three: See what happens.

This addiction worked out against the Nowhere Teams of the NFLDetroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis. It worked out fine—barely—against a Green Bay team featuring one leaky offensive line.  It only worked against San Francisco because of Favre’s arm and voodoo—which is kind of redundant in a way.

On Sunday, it worked against Baltimore because of the scared, timid leg of an inexperienced kicker, and probably some Mississippian frantically sticking pins in a new doll labeled “Hauschka.”

So here is Minnesota, 6-0.  This should have Vikings’ players, coaches, and fans sky-high, riding cloud nine.  

But it isn’t, for good and bad reasons.  

Let’s get the bad out of the way, starting with the secondary.  When was the last time the Vikings’ secondary was not a concern, by the way? Joey Browner’s hey-day, eh?

At least since the age of Warren Moon, the Vikings’ secondary has been nothing but trouble, and it is no different this year.  One could argue that the stats are inflated because teams need to throw the ball, and that is a very good argument to make.

But that doesn’t excuse all the problems the defensive backs are having right now.  

Minnesota came into the Baltimore game 18th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 225 yards/game.  Joe Flacco threw for 385 yards against them Sunday, and fairly easily led the Ravens into field goal territory for the potential game-winner.  

Karl Paymah—who admittedly wouldn’t have played as much if not for an Antoine Winfield injury—was routinely burned by Flacco and whichever receiver happened to be there.  To top it off, Winfield needs an MRI for his foot.  It would be a blessing if he misses only four games.

Regarding the pass defense, the safeties seem to be the main problem as of now.  

Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams need to make more of an impact in the cover game. Who knows if that means helping out the corners or jumping underneath passes; the game of football is a funny thing, and they could be doing their job perfectly as is. 

But it appears those two are allowing too much space for passes down the seams, and not recognizing the corner or post routes quick enough to give needed help.

The offensive line, while improved from a couple weeks ago, is still a source of consternation. Ditto the special teams; Chris Kluwe’s 39-yard punt late in the fourth quarter gave the Ravens incredibly good field position, as did the coverage unit on a couple of kick and punt returns.

The Vikings’ inability to play four straight quarters of consistent football is also a concern.  Every single game has left some form of question mark, be it allowing San Francisco, Green Bay, or Baltimore back into the game; or allowing Cleveland and Detroit to take early leads; or all the yards given up to St. Louis.

Considering the outcomes, it should not be a concern; after all, Minnesota is atop their division and tied for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, this year isn’t about a division title, or a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. 

This year is about the Super Bowl.  

The Vikings know that. And that is good.

After the Ravens game, the defensive unit talked about how disappointed they were in giving up a 30-17 lead in less than three minutes.  Brad Childress talked about not settling for field goals; no, seriously, he did.

The team realizes the Ravens game should not have come down to a missed field goal, that a Super Bowl team would not have allowed that.  And that is good.

More good: Sidney Rice (who is the Minnesota Larry Fitzgerald—which is kind of redundant in a way).  Rice and Favre are developing something special.  Of course, Favre is developing something special with Visanthe Shiancoe, too. Favre seems to be doing alright with Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, as well.

More good: E.J. Henderson was near the ball all day, Chad Greenway continued his Pro Bowl campaign, and Kevin Williams continues to be Kevin Williams.

And Adrian ended up with a pretty impressive performance.

Then Chicago lost the Sunday night game, and Minnesota found themselves two games up in the NFC North.

The Vikings are undefeated, two games up in the division, and have not scored less than 27 points in any game all year.

There really shouldn’t be too much to complain about.

And yet there is. 

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Minnesota Vikings Win 38-10; Coach Brad, Is This The Kick Ass Offense?

Coach Brad Childress’ offensive play calling over his first three years at the helm of the Vikings has been unimaginative, too conservative and worst of all . . . utterly predictable.  

When Childress came to Minnesota he boasted that his offensive scheme was a “kick-ass offense.” Vikings fans were giddy over the prospect of seeing the purple post numbers similar to when Randy Moss and Chris Carter were catching passes from Randall Cunningham and Daunte Culpepper.

Instead fans saw simple running plays up the middle and too often saw short passes designed for receivers to earn a first down by fighting for yards after the catch.   

The Vikings offense finished 12th overall in the NFL last year.  The finish for the offensive unit was especially underwhelming given that the team boasted the league leading rusher in Adrian Peterson.

Expectations for this year were high with the addition of Brett Favre and Percy Harvin.  The offense point total has not disappointed with the Vikings scoring at least 27 points in each game this year.   

The play calling this year however has occasionally been reminiscent of the past—too conservative and too predictable.  Case in point, the fourth quarter playing calling by the Vikings on Monday Night against Green Bay during Week Four allowed the Packers to get back in the game.

Going into the St. Louis Rams game this weekend, fans were curious to see if the Vikings would unveil their kick ass offense or revert back to their old playing calling ways. 

In evaluating the Vikings play calling against the Rams, fans were left with mixed emotions.  There was nothing really imaginative about the plays called.  Yet, the Vikings did mix up their play  calling enough to keep the Rams guessing.

Simple Plays

The running game was pure vanilla ice cream without a hint of syrup.  The Vikings did not a run a single counter trap for Peterson or Chester Taylor. 

The Vikings were content to go straight ahead running primarily behind All-Pro Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie.  The result was a very pedestrian 89 yards on 24 carries.  The longest run of the day was 15 yards by Peterson.

The passing game was a little more exotic; imagine an additional scoop of chocolate or strawberry ice cream.

The Vikings really used only four passing plays to dissect the Rams secondary.

First, the Vikings ran their play action with a naked bootleg to perfection all day. 

During their first series, Favre hit a wide open Harvin who subsequently broke tackles down field on his way to a 24 yard gain.  Peterson then took the ball into the end zone on the next play.

During the second series of the second quarter, Favre again hooked up with Harvin on the same play for a nice 19 yard gain.  The Vikings subsequently kicked a field goal.

Second, the Vikings used the screen pass to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Rams defense.   Favre hit Peterson and Visanthe Shiancoe for gains of 9 and 11 yards respectively.

The Vikings quarterback who used the play most effectively however was Tarvaris Jackson.

The Rams sought to rattle Jackson with blitzes in hopes of an interception that they could take to the house to get themselves back in the game.  

On a 3rd down and 1 at the Vikings 29 yard line, the Rams came with a blitz. Jackson very patiently waited for a screen to develop for his Fullback Naufahu Tahi.   Tahi welcomed the spotlight and went rumbling down field for a 32 yard gain. 3 plays later with the ball on the Rams 36 yard line, the Vikings were faced with a 3rd down and 7.  The Rams expecting Jackson to drop back came up the middle the hard.

The Vikings guessed correctly by calling a center screen for Chester Taylor.  Again, Jackson patiently dropped back and waited for defense to sell out.  Jackson saw the fruits of his patience as Taylor took the screen 33 yards down to the Rams 3.

Third, when the Rams were in zone coverage the Vikings would hit their second receiver after sending their first receiver through the zone as a decoy.

The beneficiaries of this play were Shiancoe and Taylor.  Favre’s value to the Vikings is likely most evident on this play because of his early recognition of the zone defense at the line and his willingness to not to lock on to one receiver.

The best example of this play was the Vikings touchdown pass to Shiancoe in the third quarter.  

The Vikings were in the red zone at the Rams 13 yard line.  The Vikings sent a player in motion; the player was a decoy and it appeared sending him  in  motion had its intended effect of getting the Rams attention.

Favre did not give the play away by locking on to Shiancoe.  Instead as soon as Shiancoe broke open, Favre turned, fired, and hit him in stride preventing the Rams defenders from putting a hand on Shiancoe.

In fairness to the Vikings coaching staff, they probably didn’t open up their playbook to keep their next three opponents in the dark. 

Predictable

While the plays were simple, the Vikings did a good job mixing things up to keep the Rams guessing.

Peterson had not gained more than 100 yards in his past 3 games.  Last year, everyone would have expected the Vikings to hand off the ball to Peterson early and often.

Instead, the Vikings threw the Rams a curve ball by starting with a pass to Sidney Rice followed up with short screen pass to Peterson. 

The message sent by the Vikings is a good message to the Rams and the League. 

In passing to Rice, the Vikings are stating that they feel confident beating teams with their passing game. 

The screen pass to Peterson says he can no longer  be thought of as only a threat to run the ball.  Last year, Peterson had 21 receptions whereas after 5 games this year Peterson has already hauled in 10 catches.

On their second series, the Vikings increased their lead to 14-0 by virtue of Jared Allen taking a fumble into the end zone.

The series starts on the Vikings 34.  Last year, the Vikings would have been content to slowly grind the ball with running plays.

This year, the Vikings stayed aggressive with a pass play.  Unfortunately, Favre was sacked as Tahi failed to pick up a blitz.   Chester Taylor gained 7 yards on the next play with a run.

In his first year, Childress would have probably gone with a running play.  This year, Favre throws a deep skinny flag route to Harvin.  Harvin is behind the defender and it appears that it would be a 40 yard play for the Vikings but Harvin can’t hold on to the ball.

Good call, Coach.  Why not go for the early knock-out punch—you are up 14-0 and you are on the road.  If Harvin catches the ball, the fight in the Rams and their fans might have left at halftime.  Bags on the heads of the remaining fans would probably have followed.

Most fans probably don’t feel that the Vikings offense is a kick ass offense.  The only pass that was beyond 30 yards that was not a screen pass was Favre’s 47 yard pass to Sidney Rice pictured above.

While the Vikings are not as explosive as Moss and Company,the Vikings offense might just be good enough to get the job done if they can continue to keep defenses guessing as to their next move.

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No Pressure: Favre Shreds The Wisconsin Secondary For The Win

In preparation for Monday night’s match-up, Dom Capers had to pick his poison: stop the running game  of Adrian Peterson or prevent Brett Favre from slinging the ball to his purple receivers.

Before last night’s game, Peterson was averaging over 6 yards a carry this season. Known as one of the league’s premier running backs, Adrian Peterson is a nightmare to game plan against.

Yet last night, the Packers were able to contain Peterson to a meager 55 yards on 22 attempts (a 2.2 average). Former first round pick Clay Matthews III was also able to rip the football out of Peterson’s hands and run 42 yards in for a touchdown.

If this was 2008, it would seem like Green Bay was able to successfully shut down Minnesota’s offense.

Unfortunately for the Packers, a certain player that was behind the Vikings offense was able to exploit the Green Bay secondary that former quarterbacks Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson could not.

That player was none other than Brett Favre.

In what seemed to be the dream come true for the Ironman ever since his departure from Wisconsin, Favre was able to put on a show Monday Night. Favre was 24 of 31 for 3 touchdowns and no interceptions versus his former team. 

Favre’s first touchdown was a short left pass to Visanthe Shiancoe, where Nick Barnett was not fast enough to cover.

The second touchdown was pass over the middle to Sidney Rice for 14 yards where Nick Collins was a step behind.

The third and final touchdown was a deep pass to Bernard Berrian for 31 yards. Berrian had beat Al Harris on the play but Derrick Martin failed to cover over the top and was too late to defend the pass.

Favre picked apart the entire secondary all night, which was due to a lack of a pass rush.

The 3-4 defense did a phenomenal job taking Adrian Peterson out of the game, but failed to get any sort of pressure on Favre.

Dom Capers failed to utilize the blitzing capabilities of the linebackers to rattle Favre. The defense was accredited with just one quarterback hit and no sacks.

The defensive effort could have been summed up by one play. Early in the third quarter, Favre had more than six seconds in the pocket and was able to complete a long 31 yard pass down the middle.

Dom, if your looking to get Brett throwing interceptions, you have got to rattle that 40 year old body of his first.

With a bye coming up this week, hopefully the Packers can get healthy and learn from their mistakes last night. Favre comes to town in less than a month.

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Tuesday Morning Runnng Back Week Four: Brett Favre Sparkles in MNF Spotlight

It was an image we’d thought we thought we’d never see in our lifetimes.

The man that is considered by many from Kenosa to Green Bay as the man who returned football to prominence in Cheeseland, was now playing against them.

Better yet, he was under center for a hated rival.

Hence, the drama was understood, and the atmosphere electric, as Brett Favre went out went out to prove he still has it to both the world and his former team.

He did just that.

It was as if he stepped into a time machine, his passes were on target, his arm was strong, and he trusted the speed of his receivers to go get the ball.

When it was over, the Vikings had a 30-23 win, and Favre threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, with a passer rating of 135.3 that would make Drew Brees blush.

Favre’s almost perfect night on a national stage even managed to steal some limelight away from his own teammate. Jared Allen recorded 4.5 sacks, the most ever by a defensive player on Monday Night Football.

But it was clearly No. 4’s night, as he proved you can teach an old dog new tricks.

How does he do it?

It must be the Wranglers.

Elsewhere in week four action:

  • I always love to see players who get the message when they’re benched that there is no margin for error. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall turned his punishment into a positive as he rushed for 165 yards and two touchdown in their win over San Diego.
  • Ravens WR Mark Clayton is the clear goat of the week as he dropped a easy touchdown that allowed the Patriots to get away with a win. 
  • Mark Sanchez finally got his welcome to the NFL moment as he was sacked four times and the offensive turned the ball over four times in a sloppy game for the Jets.
  • It’s amazing that Drew Brees has not thrown a touchdown pass in two weeks but yet the Saints are still 4-0 for the first time since 1993.
  • Memo to Tony Romo, with the game on the line and one second left, it isn’t a good idea to throw the ball in Champ Bailey’s direction.
  • I know their secondary is depleted, but any good defensive team that allows themselves to be picked apart by an average QB like David Garrard deserves to lose. It’s a shame the Titans can’t find any answers.
  • Maybe Chad Henne will be the Matt Cassell of 2009, but then again he was sacked six times and helped out by his running game.
  • The Bills have now lost eight consecutive games in their division, and have also been outscored 65-17. It’s time to bring out the paper bags Bills fans.
  • It was nice to see that the Redskins rebounded for a victory after a putrid start in which they allowed two sacks and lost a fumble.
  • The slow exhaling you hear is that of every Giants fan after they learned Eli Manning was only going to be out day-to-day.
  • So much for the Lions carrying any momentum into week four as they allowed 48 points to the Bears.
  • If you have a 4th-and-11 in overtime with a minute and four seconds left at your opponents’ 41, why wouldn’t you go for it? Thankfully, Marvin Lewis came to his senses and it all worked out for the better.
  • The Texans only gave up 165 yards of total offense on Sunday, the lowest total in their history. But then again, it was the Raiders,.
  • You saw a vintage Peyton Manning on Sunday as he led the Colts to touchdowns on their first five drives, and tied Fran Tarkenton for third on the all time TD passing list in a win over the Seahawks.
  • Mike Singletary’s positive approach and motivational pep talks have certainly inspired the 49er’s, as they now occupy first place in the NFC West.
  • I’ll leave you with this parting thought, The Saints and Broncos are both 4-0 and the Bengals and 49er’s are both 3-1. Are we living in a bizarre world or what?

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Same Favre, Different Team: Brett’s Minnesota Vikings Stomp Green Bay Packers

I’ve read about this specific topic, and heard the endless hype for a week. I’ve felt animosity from Cheesehead maniacs who’ve suddenly turned on Brett Favre because of his unforeseen and flaky notion to hold the Green Bay Packers hostage for months.

But lastly, it was the surreal transition after Favre un-retired and signed with the Minnesota Vikings, wearing purple, and drawing much hype in the most-anticipated and highly publicized Monday night showdown.

Wearing a purple jersey is hard imaging, emotionally disappointing a confounded town. Now, the starting quarterback of the Packers’ archrivals is unbearable and the last thing Wisconsinites wanted to see.

And it has to be more painful for general manager Ted Thompson, who unsympathetically traded the egotistic veteran to the New York Jets, weary of his off-and-on retiring.

He made it clear that it was time to move in a new direction, when Favre clearly had difficulty making up his mind. Certain he was unwelcomed, Favre needed to make a statement that he wasn’t washed up, which is why he urged the Vikings to sign him.

It perfectly suited an obscured franchise that desperately needed a franchise quarterback to rejuvenated optimism and vitality inside the Metrodome. But it cynically shattered emotions on the other side, taking much energy away from myriad of fans that expressed loyalty to an admirable legend.

Whether he came back to obtain revenge, or attempt winning a Super Bowl and finally retire on top, Favre came away victorious. And he painfully brought back memories of the same man who guided the Packers for 16 seasons, with a powerful throwing arm, invaluable mobility and accuracy that symbolized the fortitude of the Packers.

Even though Favre made a decisive statement, Thompson doesn’t regret yielding on him and is satisfied with Aaron Rodgers. They’ve clearly moved forward, and promised the most-analyzed job in football to Rodgers, who is committed to following the steps of a legendary icon handling challenges as a humble and respectable leader. 

But now, even though they’ve moved on with Rodgers, still Favre is an inimitable gunslinger. Notice he beat his former team and won the quarterback duel over his successor Rodgers, avoiding a week of humiliating criticism.

Just image, if he’d had loss to his former team at home in front of a loud and sold out crowd. Just image if he’d had failed in a quarterback duel, and allowed Rodgers to beat him at his game. If he specifically returned for revenge, a loss would have backfired and created irrelevant hype.

Favre, as usual, prevailed on the grandest stage. Given history, he’s the greatest to rule Monday night games adding to his resume. The intensity level inside an energized dome, nearly blew off the roof when Favre exploited savvy awareness and mobility, delivering a 1-yard pass to Visanthe Shiancoe.

Reacting as a passionate kid, scoring his first ever touchdown against his former team, he pumped his fist and pointed skyward. Amid emotions, he body bumped kicker Ryan Longwell, blissful scoring on a night emotions were heavy facing long-time friends and former teammates.

Knowing the Packers schemes, Favre executed his passes. His shoulder is more robust than ever, giving him strength to make powerful throws. Playing as a Viking, he’s on a team that improvises Super Bowl possibilities and before retiring he has a shot at winning a title.

Maybe he’ll consider retiring if he wins. But until then, he’s playing like a young and raw talented player that has just entered the league. In five days, he’ll turn 40-years old and still can manipulate defenses and his psyche is the same way it was 15 years ago. 

As a rival, he rebelliously killed his former team, throwing for three touchdown passes. During one of his touchdown celebrations, Favre chest bumped running back Chester Taylor and knocked him to the turf.

At times, the Packers secondary seemed a bit inferior, especially when Favre lofted an incredible pass to receiver Bernard Berrian on a play defensive backs Al Harris and Derrick Martin were burnt.

Whether Favre is a wishy-washy future Hall of Famer who cannot make up his mind, misleading teams and constantly retiring, still it’s hard not to love the guy for his passion and exceptional dominance.

Oh, but it’s hard to ignore a blistering defense, especially when a relentless defensive end Jared Allen had 4½ sacks, harassing and pressuring Rodgers. That made the night rigid, having to nearly escape on every play and drive to avoid been sacked. Of course, Rodgers nifty footwork and awareness inside the pocket gave him an advantage to execute passes, but that wasn’t enough as Favre dazzled and led the Vikings to a 30-23 victory.

Assuming Favre had retired for good, the Vikings would’ve ran things offensively with either an erratic and inconsistent Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels. So now, it’s understandable why coach Brad Childress lobbied for Favre, knowing the toughness and damage he could create with his arm strength.

Since arriving, he has built a strong bond with receiver Sidney Rice, finding the explosive wideout on a 14-yard touchdown pass to complete a well-designed 77-yard drive, of which he was a perfect 5 for 5.

While it was difficult slowing down Favre’s passing game, the Packers didn’t have much problems stopping the rush attack of Adrian Peterson, who was held to a staggering 55 yards on 25 carries. They forced him into a critical mistake, when Clay Matthews amazingly ripped it out of Peterson’s arms and returned it 42-yards for a touchdown.

But Favre stole the show, calmly handling the 3-4 scheme of defensive coordinator Dom Capers. However, the Vikings won the defensive matchup. In the first quarter, Allen forced Rodgers to fumble, which changed the momentum and generated energy.

But impressively Favre emphasized that he remains the best quarterback to ever play the game, finishing the night 24 of 31 for 271 yards with no interceptions. There’s perhaps just one accomplishment left on Favre’s Vikings agenda. That’s obviously to win a Super Bowl, and trusts me, they have the ingredients.

Just alone, with Favre nothing is impossible. After all, he’s the Vikings main ingredient.

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