Favre, Vikings take it on the chin

The Vikings' desperation grew deeper with another road loss, a 28-18 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots, who made the plays when needed and avoided any turnovers. Brett Favre started but was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter and the Patriots offense was determined in the clutch.

Brett Favre took it on the chin, and the Vikings did too.

The Vikings had a puncher's chance throughout their visit with the New England Patriots, but observers could take their pick in this week's edition of the Purple postgame blame game: An offense that scored a touchdown early but couldn't finish most of its other drives, a coach that challenged a clear catch and opted for a touchdown try on fourth down that was stuffed, or a defense that couldn't stop a sub-par running game in the fourth quarter or pressure a quarterback that held the ball beyond the norm looking for receivers to uncover.

The arguments can be made for any and all of the culprits in the Vikings' 28-18 loss to the New England Patriots, but what matters most is that the Vikings fell to 2-5 and even further behind the Green Bay Packers, who pulled into sole possession of first place in the NFC North with a win over the New York Jets to move to 5-3.

Brett Favre extended his streak of consecutive regular-season games started to 292 despite a stress fracture in his left ankle and an avulsion fracture in his left heel, but the Patriots knocked him out of the game in the fourth quarter with a helmet shot to his chin that required stitches on his lacerated chin. Prior to that, Favre was having one of his better games of the season, completing 22 of 32 passes for 259 yards, but an interception that wasn't completely his fault proved to be one of the few mistakes that the Patriots have become so good at capitalizing on. They took a 21-10 lead late in the third quarter by turning Favre's lone interception into a touchdown.

The Vikings eventually answered with a Tarvaris Jackson touchdown toss to Naufahu Tahi in the fourth quarter and a two-point conversion to Percy Harvin, but the defense couldn't stop the Patriots when a stop was a must. Taking over midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots went on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 5 minutes, 30 seconds and was capped with a touchdown that ended the Vikings' realistic hopes.

The loss marred Randy Moss' return to New England, as the Patriots stifled him multiple defenders and held him to one catch for 8 yards. Percy Harvin, who played through an early ankle injury, was the beneficiary, catching six passes for 104 yards, the second 100-yard game receiving of his career.

The Vikings also got star running back Adrian Peterson going early, but his 18 first-half carries for 68 yards turned into only 25 carries for 92 yards by game's end as the Patriots clamped down on him more in the second half.

The first quarter ended without a score, but the Vikings were clearly moving the ball better. They had eight first downs to the Patriots' 1 and 99 yards to the Patriots' 32. The Vikings also snapped a six-game streak of not scoring on their first two drives when they scored a touchdown on their second series.

Harvin started the chains moving with a 21-yard reception in the middle of the field, but a cleat stuck in the turf and he ended up turning his left ankle on the play. From the rest of the drive, it was the Peterson show. He ran nine times on the drive for 39 yards and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown dive up top for a 7-0 lead three seconds into the second quarter.

The Patriots answered with their own scoring drive that brought out the worst in the Vikings. BenJarvus Green-Ellis started the chains moving with an 11-yard run, but Deion Branch turned a missed tackle by Chris Cook into a 21-yard gain. On the next play, Madieu Williams jumped in front of Brandon Tate and should have had an interception, but the ball deflected off Williams' hands and Tate still made the catch at the 11-yard line, but, perhaps still stinging from last week's missed challenge, Vikings coach Brad Childress challenged what was clearly a catch. Three plays later, Danny Woodhead took a direct snap and ran for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 10:25 to play in the second quarter.

The teams traded punts before the Vikings' final drive of the half offered them an opportunity to take a halftime lead. Harvin started it with a 19-yard reception, Peterson took it across midfield with a 23-yard run, and eventually Toby Gerhart turned third-and-goal at the 11 into fourth-and-goal at the 1. Childress elected to go for the touchdown instead of taking three points, but Peterson was stuffed to send the game to halftime still tied.

The Vikings came out in the second half and continued to move the ball, but still couldn't score a touchdown. Peterson picked up a first down on the ground and Visanthe Shiancoe moved it across midfield with a 17-yard reception. When Favre scrambled on third-and-2 and found Peterson 25 yards downfield, the Vikings had the ball in the red zone. Despite a 10-yard pickup by Peterson on a screen, a third-down pass to the end zone was too hot for Bernard Berrian to handle, bringing on Ryan Longwell for a 24-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead.

However, the defense started to break in the third quarter. Green-Ellis picked up one first down, but it was a pass rush that gave Brady far too much time that led to the big problems, allowing Brandon Tate time to get uncovered. He beat Asher Allen in coverage and juked Madieu Williams on his way to a 65-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead midway through the third quarter.

When Harvin couldn't hang onto a pass thrown behind him, Devin McCourty stripped it, grabbed it and returned the interception 37 yards to the Minnesota 37-yard line. Four plays later, the Patriots had a 21-10 lead when Green-Ellis ran through an opening on the right side of the line from 13 yards out with 2:25 left in the third quarter.

After going three-and-out on their next series, the Vikings started moving the ball. Harvin broke open for a 30-yard reception to start the drive and, three plays later, Toby Gerhart took a short pass and turned it into a 20-yard gain. When the Vikings got a pass interference call on Brandon Meriweather, who was covering Moss, they got the ball on the 9-yard line. Another third-down penalty put the Vikings on the 1-yard line on the same play that Favre was knocked out of the game with a laceration to his chin. Jackson, who had prepared all week to be the starter, came on and completed a 1-yard touchdown toss to Tahi and a two-point conversion to Harvin with 7:26 to play.

But the Patriots simply deflated Minnesota's chances with their final drive. A relatively pedestrian running game became authoritative when needed. Taking possession of the ball midway through the fourth quarter and clutching onto a three-point lead, the Patriots were methodical and determined on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that largely ran it down the Vikings' throats. By the time it was done, Green-Ellis had 112 yards for the game on 17 carries (a 6.6-yard average), his second touchdown of the game and a 28-18 lead for his team.

All the Vikings could do was get to midfield, thanks mainly to a 33-yard scramble from Jackson, before time ran out in the game … and became a huge factor in the Vikings' season with nine games remaining and a 2½-game deficit to the now-division-leading Green Bay Packers.

From here on out, it will take a stubborn chin from all the culprits that contributed to the Vikings' dicey mid-season situation.

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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