Notebook: Favre reined in, strategies change

The Vikings had a number of firsts on Sunday, not the least of which revolved around their ball security. They talk about that, a difference in offensive and defensive strategies, and more.

The Vikings earned several "firsts" for the 2010 season. They got their first road win. Interim head coach Leslie Frazier got his first win as an NFL head coach.

And neither of those things might have been possible if the Vikings hadn't played turnover-free football for the first time this season. After throwing 17 interceptions in his first 10 games, Brett Favre threw none. After losing eight fumbles in their first 10 games, the Vikings held onto the ball.

"We talked throughout the week about the things we thought that we needed to do to win, whether it's on the road or at home," Frazier said. "Particularly on the road it's hard to win if you're not having success with the turnover battle. Today we won the turnover battle and got the results that we wanted."

Last year, Adrian Peterson fumbled the ball seven times in the regular season, losing six. This year he hasn't been credited with a fumble all season long. Instead, Favre has added five lost fumbles while Peterson's backup, Toby Gerhart, has two, and Percy Harvin has one on a kickoff return.

"The No. 1 statistic in my 20 years that every coach puts up is turnover ratio, which I've never been a real big fan of because I'm usually the one who's involved in the ratio," Favre, the NFL's all-time interceptions leader, deadpanned after the game. "As you see, I'm always looking at, why isn't offsides more important? … Turnovers are obviously critical. Today, it was pretty clean on both sides."

The Vikings got one interception off of a deflected Donovan McNabb pass that they turned into three points, and McNabb recovered his own fumble earlier in the game when he was sacked by defensive tackle Letroy Guion.

Prior to Sunday, Gerhart had carried the ball 24 times and caught 13 passes, giving him two fumbles in 37 touches. On Sunday, with Peterson knocked out of the game with an ankle injury with 10 minutes to play in the first half, Gerhart turned into the workhorse. He rushed a game-high 22 times and caught two passes without a fumble.

"We wanted to emphasis the turnovers, really being able to run the ball effectively. We thought if we could get that done we could get in some manageable third-down situations," Frazier said.

The Vikings ended up converting 6 of 15 third-down attempts, the first time in five games that they converted at least 40 percent of their third-down attempts.

Even Brett Favre's legs contributed to the success. Facing third-and-8 with 2:25 to play, Favre rolled to his right for a run-pass option play. When Percy Harvin was covered, Favre tucked the ball and ran 10 yards to seal the win.

"I thought some of our bootlegs were effective. Did I expect to run for a first down? I haven't expected to run for a first down in quite a while," he said. "… I thought (Percy) would be wide open on a corner route. They had him actually covered. It was 10 yards, really? It felt like 50. But we needed that win."

The Vikings' ability to hold onto the ball was a major contributing factor.


Brad Childress has had a major influence on the Vikings offense since bringing it to Minnesota in 2006. With Childress fired last Monday, Frazier said last week that observers would see what he was emphasizing offensively.

The most apparent difference seemed to be trying to roll Favre out of the pocket and get him better passing lanes.

"That's always been to me what I thought I had done best. There was a time, and I joke about it, there was a time where I did a lot more, run across the line of scrimmage, trusted my legs," Favre said "… If you're struggling a little bit in protection, I knew (the Redskins) would rush the passer well and play a fairly conservative scheme so it would be hard to just sit there and run the ball well. We have Adrian Peterson (so) you would think that play-action would be a huge part of (the plan). … I just feel like that's where I'm at my best and I felt we did a good job of that."


With Frazier concentrating on the duties of a head coach, he turned over the defensive calls to linebackers coach Fred Pagac, who has a more extroverted personality than Frazier. That showed through in some of the blitzes.

"It's the same ones we've used, I probably just didn't call them," Frazier said. "Fred called some of those pressures that I haven't been calling, which is good."

The result was that the Vikings had four sacks, only the second time this year they've had that many and doubling their previous best on the road this season. In five previous road games, they had only four combined sacks, going without a sack in two of their last three road games.

The Vikings also turned around a dismal start trying to stop the Redskins on third down. Washington converted their first four third-down attempts on their game-opening touchdown drive and were 6-for-9 in the first half. After that, they converted only one more third down in six second-half attempts.

"Our front just stood up and made some plays, made that quarterback have to move around," Frazier said. "I thought Fred and the defensive staff did a great job of adjusting to some things that they were doing early on, particularly in second-and-long situations."


  • Favre seemed pleased with the Vikings' ability to convert third downs. "Third-and-1, they are very difficult to run against," he said. "But we had just enough plays in our arsenal and that was probably the biggest difference."

  • The Vikings had 17 first downs to the Redskins' 10, but the biggest disparity was in the running game. Minnesota had eight first downs rushing to Washington's one, and the Vikings had 137 yards rushing to the Redskins' 29.

  • The Vikings were 2-for-4 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, their best performance there since equaling that in New England on Oct. 31. They entered the game scoring 12 touchdowns on 30 red-zone possessions, tied for 28th in the league at 40 percent.

  • Minnesota's longest drive of the game was their 13-play possession to close out the game. Washington's longest possession of the game was a 13-play drive to start the game. The Redskins didn't have a drive longer than six plays in the second half.

  • The Vikings had three penalties for 15 yards, their second-least penalized game of the season.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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