Brett Favre's statistics were very solid Monday night, but it was the little things he did that helped create those statistics. Even so, he pointed out where he can improve. Plus, get more than three dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
Fans may have thought they knew Brett Favre
prior to Monday's 17-10 win, but when they saw him doing things as a Viking that they always hated when he was with Green Bay, he may have started the process of converting those fans who were against the Vikings signing him.
With Monday's game expected to be the only real action Favre would see before the regular-season opener against Cleveland, there were going to be a lot of eyes on him. While not perfect, he displayed why he is the veteran that he is and why Brad Childress wanted him in Minnesota so badly.
Even with a strong performance, Favre wasn't ready to accept complete praise.
"I felt comfortable with the plays, but the most important thing is feeling comfortable with the guys running the plays and that's where I have to catch up," he said. "We run plays that I'm very familiar with, but how our guys run them is different than what I'm used to in the past."
He completed his first two passes, getting Peterson involved in the passing game and zipping a 19-yard bullet to Visanthe Shiancoe
. While the offense didn't set the world on fire in the first half, you saw Favre's mobility – not scrambling ability, but mobility within the pocket. He got rid of the ball when blitzes were coming. He moved laterally and in the pocket to buy the extra second to complete passes and threw a near textbook 30-yard corner-of-the-end-zone lob that Percy Harvin
couldn't pull in.
But what was perhaps more impressive was his two-minute offense at the end of the first half. The stat sheet will say that he completed four of four passes in the drive, but he actually completed six – two were nullified by Vikings penalties. He threw a screen to Chester Taylor
that looked like it could spring a big play, if not for a great play by DeMeco Ryans
of the Texans to slice in between blockers and bring Taylor down. After a 10-yard crossing pass to Sidney Rice
, who took a big hit but held onto the ball, a pair of screens to Taylor that gained 6 and 7 yards were called back by penalties.
The Vikings seemed potentially ready to concede the rest of the clock, facing a first-and-25 situation, but after a 8-yard draw by Taylor, Favre looked off the Texans defense and delivered a 13-yard strike to Sidney Rice, prompting a timeout. The coaches drew up a perfect play coming out of the break and, thanks to some hard running by Taylor, the Vikings got a 28-yard touchdown with 27 seconds to play in the half.
While there are certainly things to critique about Favre's performance, such as a crackback block that could draw him a fine from the league and exposing himself to some big hits, but the bottom was line was that Favre kept plays alive and kept drives alive. He finished completing 13 of 18 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown and has started the process of winning over his detractors. But, even with the success, he looks for more improvement.
"There were some close ones (Monday) that maybe people don't see as far as ball-handling and maybe some of my reads," he said. "Although there were completions, I think there were some other throws I probably could have made. … Sure, it was much better. I was hoping it was better than last week."
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings extended their preseason streak to three games without having an offensive turnover. The defense has had five takeaways – three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The Vikings held a statistical edge throughout the game, finishing with 352 total yards (172 passing, 180 rushing) to 268 for the Texans (207 passing, 61 rushing). While Houston had one more first down (15-14), the Vikings held the ball for 32:07 of the game clock.
What was supposed to be a battle of two of the best young running backs in the league turned out to be a mismatch. Adrian Peterson, who played just the first half, rushed 11 times for 117 yards and a touchdown and caught one pass for 8 yards. Second-year man Steve Slaton was limited to just 27 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, and three receptions for 20 yards. Known as a game-breaker, his longest rush was 7 yards and his longest reception was 9.
Taylor had a solid all-around game, rushing seven times for 30 yards and catching three passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings had just two kickoff returns in the game, both handled by Harvin – who had returns of 25 and 27 yards.
Jaymar Johnson made a strong case for making the team as a punt returner. He had one return of 18 yards and another of 14 yards in which it appeared as though he would gain almost nothing.
It would seem the Vikings' philosophy as it pertains to punt coverage in the preseason has been to sacrifice yards on the punt for lack of yards on returns. Chris Kluwe punted four times, with an average of 34 yards and a long of 41. Of those six punts, two resulted in fair catches, one landed out of bounds, one was hideously short and took a fortuitous bounce and rolled to stop on the 13-yard line. Only two were returned by Jacoby Jones and each netted him just 2 yards.
It was pretty apparent how much the Texans wanted to win the game. They kept their offensive and defensive starters in until the fourth quarter, while the Vikings called off their starters in the third quarter.
When the Vikings review the game tape, there is sure to be a lot of complaining. The Vikings committed a whopping 13 penalties and they were just about every variety – illegal man downfield on a punt twice, false start twice, illegal block in the back, offensive pass interference, illegal shift, offside, offensive holding, illegal formation, crackback block, delay of game and 12 men in the huddle. And that doesn't take into account a pair of other penalties that were wiped out by offsetting calls.
When the Texans coaching staff looks at the tape, they will have to be kicking themselves for some awful second-half clock management. The Texans went on a fourth-and-10 with 2:20 to play on their own 46 because they had to. They had only one timeout left. On the first drive of the second half, the Texans had to call a timeout because the sideline took too long to decide whether to punt on a fourth-and-1 or go for the first down. The second was equally inexcusable. With a first down on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Texans threw a short pass for 5 yards, but didn't huddle up and, as the clock wore down, the play was slow coming in and they had to burn a second timeout. Instead of having a chance to punt, pin the Vikings and hope their defense could make a stop, which would have included the two-minute warning stoppage, Houston had to go on fourth down and it resulted in an incompletion that, for all intents, ended the game.
The Texans showed more than a little sense of home desperation after being humbled earlier at home by New Orleans. Not only did they keep their starters in longer than the Vikings, they went on fourth down three different times.
While the Texans did plenty of things wrong, you couldn't blame DeMeco Ryans. He was in on 16 tackles – 12 of those unassisted.
Jared Allen led the Vikings with seven tackles (five solo) and one sack. He was able to put a couple of good shots on Schaub, whom he knocked out of action for a month with a couple of low hits last year, which resulted in the league hitting him with a $50,000 fine.
The plan of having Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels each play a quarter got scuttled more because of the first-unit first drives of the third quarter. Between the first drive by the Texans and the first drive of the Vikings, 12:21 of the third quarter was burned up. As a result, Jackson played only one series and Sage Rosenfels' homecoming was relegated to fourth-quarter mop-up duty. After being told Favre would play just the first half, he lobbied to get one drive in the second half, which was granted, but severely altered the rotation for Jackson and Rosenfels.
In his only series, Jackson completed both of his pass attempts for 22 yards. Rosenfels completed two of three passes for 26 yards.
Through two games, the Vikings hadn't allowed a sack. Houston was credited with four sacks Monday.
Say what you want about the second half of games meaning nothing. In three games, the Vikings have allowed just three points in the second half, while allowing 23 points in the first half.
There must be something about the second quarter and the Vikings defense. Twenty of their 26 points allowed have come in the second quarter, with just six points being allowed in the other three quarters combined.
The Vikings may want to consider not exposing Favre to the Wildcat formation. Lined up as a wide receiver, not only could an aggressive cornerback come up and give him a shot – when he's lined up wide, he no longer has quarterback protections from the officials – but why the Vikings would run a play Favre's way and ask him to throw a block is hard to fathom. He also ran a naked bootleg that would have potentially left him easy prey for a big hit, much like Matt Schaub endured against Jared Allen in the first half.
It took into the third quarter of his second game, but Favre must be feeling comfortable in the Vikings offense. On a handoff to Taylor in the third quarter, Favre ran the other way and faked as though he was throwing a pass to confuse the defense.
ESPN ran a commercial poking fun at the Favre saga. With a bunch of ESPN anchors yelling to one another, "He's coming back!" the bit ended with a mascot putting two lanterns in a window at ESPN, a reference to the Old North Church "One if my land, two if by sea" line from the Revolutionary War. The punch line was whether one lantern meant he was still retired and two meant he was un-retired.
The Vikings clearly have done some offseason work on getting to know when to make challenges. Early in the game, they hoped to take advantage of a new replay rule that allows for challenges on plays blown dead by a whistle. However, when the officials told the Vikings that they would need conclusive proof that a defender recovered the ball, they rescinded the challenge. Later in the game, an alert sideline call on a pass to Andre Johnson in which he torched Karl Paymah for 58 yards to the Vikings 12-yard line was challenged and overturned. The ball was placed on the 24-yard line and the drive would end on an interception by Madieu Williams on a tipped pass by Marcus McCauley, who was covering Johnson.
The Vikings had a big statistical edge in the first half with all the starters playing, outgaining the Texans 231-147. The Vikings had 138 yards rushing (117 of that coming from Peterson) and 93 yards passing. Favre completed 9 of 13 passes for 105 yards and a TD. Slaton was held to just 20 yards on nine carries and Johnson had just one catch for 9 yards.
Fans got the first true taste of Harvin Monday. He returned two kickoffs, was used as a slot receiver, a running back flanking Favre, a motion man on fakes and even twice as quarterback in the Wildcat.
The Vikings defense had some cause for pause, allowing a seven-minute touchdown drive in the second quarter, letting the Texans complete identical sideline passes for 16 and 20 yards and a time-consuming drive in the third quarter. While they only resulted in 10 points, it gave the Texans a chance to get back in a game that was all Vikings early on.
Schaub, who has been dogged with injuries in his first two seasons with Houston, appeared to injure his ankle after being chased by Ben Leber late in the first half. At the end of both of his final two drives of the night, he headed to the sideline with a noticeable limp.
The Vikings defense didn't allow Houston to cross midfield until midway through the second quarter.
While the Texans played their starters deep into the game, they spent most of it without wide receiver Kevin Walter, who pulled a hamstring in the first quarter.
The Vikings outgained the Texans 136-33 in the first quarter, most of that coming on Peterson's 75-yard touchdown run.
The Vikings didn't take long to take the lead, scoring just 18 seconds into the game.
The Vikings are now 3-0 in the preseason for the first time since 2001.
In his first three seasons as head coach, Brad Childress had a preseason record of 5-6-1, with his previous best mark being a 2-1-1 record in 2006. He went 2-2 in 2007 and 1-3 last year.
The 26 points allowed through three games by the Vikings are the fewest of any team in the NFL.
Somebody break up the NFC North. Through three weeks, the four teams in the division have a combined record of 10-2, with the Vikings and Packers both at 3-0 and Chicago and Detroit posting 2-1 records.
Seven teams are undefeated in the preseason – five from the NFC and two from the AFC.
Although it doesn't count in the records, the 75-yard run by Peterson was the longest of his career. His regular-season long run was 73 yards against Chicago on Oct. 14, 2007.
Bernard Berrian and Jim Kleinsasser missed their second straight games Monday. Berrian warmed up prior to the game, but didn't play. Kleinsasser, whose hand is still in a cast, didn't dress.
A reminder that the Vikings will have to cut four players by 3 p.m. Central Tuesday to get to the limit of 75 players. They entered Monday's game with 79 players on the active roster. That number will be reduced to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.