Last year, Brett Favre threw two interceptions in the Metrodome on his way to a 9-0 record at home. This year, he already has three interceptions and one loss in one game on Mall of America Field.
Without his top target, Sidney Rice, Favre is struggling to find a rhythm with his receivers and it's translating into an offense that is largely devoid of touchdowns. In a 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the only touchdown the Vikings could muster was following a fumble recovery on the Dolphins 1-yard line.
It wasn't for a lack of moving the ball. Favre had 225 yards passing, it was three interceptions and a fumble in the end zone that did in the Vikings.
"The one thing is he's a free-wheeler," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "You don't want to cut down that aggressiveness because when you get tentative and cautious, that's no way to play the game. Typically he's shooting it, and you want him to keep shooting it."
Unfortunately for the Vikings, three of Favre's passes shot into the hands of the Dolphins, with cornerback Jason Allen coming away with two of the interceptions.
For most of the game, the Vikings were moving the ball effectively enough. Adrian Peterson had 145 yards rushing on 28 carries and added 41 yards in the passing game. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had another big game as well, catching six passes for 86 yards, but when Percy Harvin left the game after re-injuring his hip in the second quarter, the offense looked even more limited.
Early on, that wasn't a problem.
The Vikings drove across midfield and into scoring position on their first drive with a heavy dose of Peterson and Harvin, but on fourth-and-2 from the 26-yard line, Brad Childress elected to go for the first down and Favre's pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
The Dolphins didn't take long to reverse field position. On their first play from scrimmage, QB Chad Henne threw deep for Brandon Marshall down the right sideline and hit him in stride for a 46-yard gain over Lito Sheppard. Five straight runs picked up two first downs and the Dolphins were inside the 5-yard line. It took them three plays, but Henne finally found Brian Hartline in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Vikings' second drive ended with a sack and the Dolphins offense went back to work. This time, an explosive pass to Brian Hartline (for 19 yards) started the drive, but they moved across midfield with more moderate gains before the Vikings forced a punt following a Kevin Williams sack.
Minnesota couldn't take advantage, despite getting into the red zone. Shiancoe did most of the damage on the drive with back-to-back catches of 18 and 32 yards, and the offense got down to the 13-yard line. However, on third-and-12, Favre threw slightly behind Harvin, who tipped the ball in the air and CB Vontae Davis grabbed it at the 1-yard line before it hit the ground.
Once again, the Dolphins started with an explosive play, a 51-yard run by Ronnie Brown, but the defense stiffened with the ball at midfield and the teams traded possessions going into halftime.
The Vikings avoided giving up the big plays defensively in the second half, but the offense continued to be a problem. Backed up to their own 5-yard line on their first drive, Cameron Wake slipped around Shiancoe and Phil Loadholt and knocked the ball out of Favre's hand as he cocked to throw. When Koa Misi recovered in the end zone, the Dolphins had a 14-0 lead with 6:29 to play in the third quarter.
And Favre just continued to turn it over.
On the Vikings' next possession, he found Shiancoe for 19 yards, Berrian for 20 and Jim Kleinsasser for 20 on consecutive throws. But once inside the red zone, he went for a back-shoulder throw for Bernard Berrian and Jason Allen came away with the interception.
The defense stood up again – this time on the very next play from scrimmage. Ricky Williams took a handoff and E.J. Henderson was on him quickly, causing a fumble that was recovered by Erin Henderson.
This time, the ball was close enough to the goal line for the offense to take advantage. After a pass was batted away in the end zone, Peterson put the first Vikings points of the game on the board with a 1-yard run, making it 14-7 with 2:38 to play in the third quarter.
The defense did its job once again, and the Vikings were clearly starting to feel momentum. A steady of dose of Peterson helped them put together their longest drive of the game. On the second play from scrimmage, he found a cutback lane and went 23 yards. One play later, he went 12 yards, and the forward progress continued thanks to a 1-yard dive that allowed Naufahu Tahi to pick up just barely enough yardage to convert fourth down. Peterson exploded for another 18-yard run, but when Favre was sacked on third down, Childress called for the field goal unit and Ryan Longwell converted the 28-yarder to draw the Vikings within four points, 14-10, with 7:52 to play.
The defense forced another three-and-out, but Favre quickly returned the ball to the Dolphins when he went deep for Berrian and Jason Allen intercepted another pass.
In a broken record, the defense responded in kind. Ronnie Brown took a handoff and Pat Williams pounced on him, causing a fumble that E.J. Henderson corralled.
With the ball on the Dolphins 24-yard line, the Vikings were in prime scoring position. Once again, they turned to Peterson, who delivered with 20 yards on three carries, but when they continued to feed him the ball, Miami began swarming him. In two carries, he got it down to the 1-yard line, but a fourth-down carry went nowhere when Karlos Dansby tied him up and the Dolphins avoided losing the lead for the first time in the game.
Taking possession with 2:16 to play, Miami gained one first down on a Chad Greenway holding penalty, but the Dolphins still had to punt it away and Minnesota took possession at its own 45-yard line with 1:41 to play. Favre started with two incompletions on balls that Shiancoe and Greg Lewis could have had, but Favre returned to Lewis for a 14-yard pickup on third down. Peterson moved the chains again with a 10-yard reception, but the 27-yard line was as close as the Vikings would get. Down by four points, they completed a short pass to Berrian, but three straight incompletions ended the game.
With three games before the bye, the Vikings were hoping for a strong early start. Instead, the offense has struggled to score, putting up nine points in New Orleans and 10 against the Dolphins in the Metrodome. That has translated into an 0-2 start with four Favre interceptions in two games.
Vikings turn it over, lose 14-10
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