Brett Favre's debut in purple wasn't all that was hyped, but getting him to face a 3-4 defense in the preseason is a good thing. The Kansas City Chiefs' switch to that formation can only help a Vikings team that will face that defensive alignment more often this season.
The Vikings could face it next week against the Houston Texans, the following week against the Dallas Cowboys and then …
"We will be seeing that against Cleveland, so that was very good for us," head coach Brad Childress said. "Our big thing was building and improving on week one."
The biggest adjustment comes with the offensive line, which is featuring two first-time starters in rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt and center John Sullivan. Neither of them has taken an offensive snap in a regular-season NFL game. But Childress saw progress from his offensive line with each series.
"It took us just a minute to calibrate to those outside linebackers coming off the edge. Then I thought they exerted their will as we started to go in the second quarter. I think it's coming together decent," he said.
"It's a different game. It is a big jump from the college level," Hutchinson said of Sullivan and Loadholt. "They have got to play catch-up and learn how to play at this level and play well."
Loadholt looked more consistent against Kansas City than he did in his preseason debut.
"He played 44 snaps and the whole first half during the Colts game, his first as a pro. He had a leg that was bothering him a little bit and you're playing the whole first half. I thought he did some better things (against the Chiefs)," Childress said. "I don't think there was anything that he had to think too much about. We really didn't game plan. We just had a playlist that is functional and see people play. You really rig it for a 3-4 front, so you make some amendments to your base rules."
It didn't always come easy. Favre was hit hard on each of his drives when the Vikings weren't able to pick up the blitz, either because of missed assignments or the Chiefs just bringing more defenders than Minnesota could block.
"They blitzed and we didn't pick it up right. Things like that will kill a drive. So, I think as a total offense we were off," Hutchinson said. "It took us until the second quarter to establish a run game and get the momentum going."
Ironically, Tarvaris Jackson performed better in the face of the blitz than Favre. Last year, Jackson's worst late-season performances came against the blitz-intensive teams in the NFC East – the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. His familiarity with the current receiving corps and his mobility were assets on Friday night.
On his touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe, he avoided the pressure and bought time while rolling out to his right before finding his tight end open in the end zone.
"It was supposed to be a checkdown, and I got flushed out, and he did a good job staying with me, and I was able to find him in the back of the end zone," Jackson said.
"They ran a zero blitz, and they tried to jam me off the line," Shiancoe said. "I was able to get off, then I made a move and slipped the defender. T-Jack gave me a perfect throw, and I was able to jump up and make the catch."
Favre wasn't quite as fortunate with his adjustments. On one blitz, he was hoping for a big play to Percy Harvin, but the receiver made an adjustment on his route that complied with how he had been coached and Favre threw a pass according to what he expected Harvin to do based on Favre's experience with route adjustments in Green Bay. The result was an incompletion and a missed opportunity.
Meanwhile, Jackson was piling up a perfect 158.3 passer rating, a strong development for a player that has been through a lot in the past year with being benched and constantly having to live in the shadows of Favre rumors and recent reality.
"I'm very happy for T-Jack," Shiancoe said. "He's still grinding, still scratching. I think this is the best thing that could happen for him, to sit back and make sense of things and really watch a Hall of Famer."
Favre is more likely to actually play like a Hall of Famer once he gets those adjustments down and the offensive line gets better at adjusting to the blitzes hatched by a 3-4 defense.
Adjustments to 3-4 still progressing
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