Vikings can't overcome slow start, lose 29-20

The Vikings offense finally found a rhythm late in the third quarter, but it turned out to be too late in a 29-20 loss to the New York Jets.

Brett Favre returned to New York amid distractions and allegations. Randy Moss was back in purple for the first time in five years.

And, still, the Vikings proved that NFL football will usually come down to turnovers. The Vikings had three of them. The Jets had none, leading to a 29-20 Jets win with 13 of their points coming off turnovers.

It took nearly three quarters, but the Vikings offense finally found a groove. The problem? They were already down 12-0 by the time it happened and couldn't make up enough for a sluggish offensive start Monday night.

The Vikings stumbled their way through the first half, getting only three first downs, converting no third downs and ending the half with only 51 total net yards. Yet, thanks to their defense, they were trailing only 9-0.

"Forty or 50 yards, that's embarrassing," Favre said of the first-half production. "We still had a chance to win the football game with 40 or 50 yards (in the first half)."

They did. But it took until midway through the third quarter before Favre and company converted a third down. When they finally got it, it was a 16-yard completion to Moss that seemed to ignite the offense. Three plays later, Favre hit Percy Harvin for 22 yards to eclipse 70,000 yards passing in his career. Three plays later, it was another third-down conversion, but this time it was a 37-yard pass to Moss for Favre's 500th touchdown.

All the statistics mattered little, however, except for one: The Vikings are now 1-3 and quickly losing ground in the NFC North and even the early positioning for a wild card spot.

"People ask about those (records) all the time. The most important thing is wins," Favre said. "That was not the case tonight. I've achieved a lot of things, but we're 1-3. That's disappointing."

They can chalk up being competitive to the defense early, but turnovers were once again the key.

The Vikings got off to a miserable start, having an illegal man downfield on a reverse pass that was completed from Moss to Favre on the first play from scrimmage. They had two more false start penalties on the drive and couldn't recover.

Another three-and-out that ended in a sack gave the Jets a win in the battle of field position, taking over on Minnesota's 40-yard line. An all-LaDainian Tomlinson drive brought it the 7-yard line, but Chad Greenway stopped the shifty back after consecutive short completions, forcing Nick Folk onto the field for a 25-yard field goal and 3-0 Jets lead with 4:56 to play.

While the defense held up under the pressure of extended playing time early, the offense could only muster one first down on its first five drives and were 0-for-5 in third-down conversions … and it would still get worse.

After Folk kicked another field goal for a 6-0 lead, Favre went from not converting third downs to not holding onto the ball. He couldn't handle a snap from Ryan Cook and the Jets had the ball at midfield after Bart Scott recovered.

All Mark Sanchez did was convert third-and-6, third-and-12 and second-and-12, and New York was in field goal position once again for a 9-0 lead at the half.

Favre's struggles in the rain continued, as he fumbled on Minnesota's first snap of the second half, setting up the Jets for their fourth field goal of the game.

From there, however, the offense finally got rolling with third-down conversions to Moss, Harvin and then Moss again for his 37-yard touchdown, but the momentum wouldn't hold.

Brad Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards to the 19-yard line and Folk nailed his fifth field goal of the game to put the Jets ahead 15-7 in the final minute of the third quarter.

But the offense found its rhythm and Peterson rattled off a 30-yard run to start the next drive, followed by a 10-yard run. With the ball at the 33-yard line after a pass interference penalty on Moss, Favre round Harvin on a crossing route that that he turned into a touchdown, but when the two-point conversion pass failed, the Vikings still trailed 15-13.

After an exchange of punts, the Jets found an offensive rhythm … and the end zone for the first time. Cornerback Cedric Griffin left with a knee injury and immediately the Jets went to work on Asher Allen. First it was Braylon Edwards catching a 16-yard pass against Allen and, one play later, it was Jerricho Cotchery grabbing a 10-yarder with Allen in coverage. Shonn Greene finished the drive with a 23-yard touchdown and the Jets were back in control with a nine-point lead, 22-13, with 4:30 to play.

The Vikings got their offense rolling again, and Peterson started with a 20-yard run. On second-and-10, Favre found Greg Lewis for 33 yards and followed that up with an 11-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone for Harvin to pull the Vikings within two points, 22-20, with 3:09 remaining.

But on their next possession they couldn't get out of their own territory, and when Favre forced a third-down throw to Visanthe Shiancoe, Dwight Lowery stepped in front of the tight end and returned the ball 26 yards for the game-sealing touchdown and a 29-20 New York win.

In second and third quarters, it was two fumbles that led to six Jets point, but the final dagger with Favre was his only interception of the game, one that put the New York tally to 13 points off turnovers in a nine-point win.

"Thirteen points off turnovers is probably all you need to know in a closely contested game," Childress said. "Not good enough."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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