Notebook: Gunslinger to game manager

The Vikings didn't need Brett Favre to be spectacular when they had so many other parts of the team performing at a high level. Players and coaches reacted to that, a wide range of special teams performances, challenges and other notes from Sunday's Vikings win.

How can a gunslinger turn into a game manager? By having the other components of winning football come together to allow it.

That's why Brett Favre was able to get a win while only throwing 21 passes, completing 14 for 110 yards.

Special teams aside, the Vikings on offense and defense did nearly all the right things to win.

The defense didn't give up a touchdown until it was garbage time with mostly second-teamers in purple employing a prevent defense against Cleveland's first-team offense. Even with that 80-yard drive that ended a seven-game scoreless streak for the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings held the Browns under 300 total net yards, but it was the difference in rushing that was the difference in the game.

The Vikings rushed for 268 yards and held the Browns to 89 yards. That success allowed them to stick with the ground game, as they ran the ball 37 times compared to the Browns' 20 rushes. Adrian Peterson's 64-yard touchdown helped raise the team's rushing average 6.1 yards.

"I haven't played with a running back like that. He's pretty awesome, but I guess that's an understatement," Favre said of Peterson.

The Browns averaged a respectable 4.5 yards, but they were forced to get away from the running game as the score was getting away from them.

After a preseason filled with penalties, the Vikings were also on the better end there, committing only three penalties for 38 yards compared to an Eric Mangini-led team that is normally on the winning end of the penalty game. The Browns had eight for 66 yards.

Finally, the Vikings were able to go an entire game without a turnover – no fumbles and no interceptions. The Browns, meanwhile, gave the Vikings additional opportunities with three fumbles (one lost) and one interception.

While Favre completed 8 of 12 passes in the first half, only two completions went to the wide receivers – both went to Sidney Rice. Favre also targeted Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin once each but came up empty, just like he did on another pass to Rice.

In fact, the Vikings had more players carry the ball in the first half than they did catching the ball. Peterson, Harvin, Jeff Dugan, Naufahu Tahi and Chester Taylor all had first-half rushes. The team only had four players catch a pass in the opening 30 minutes.

"Workman-like. There were no blips," Childress said in describing Favre's performance. "Not to make it sound like unspectacular is a bad thing, but he made the routine plays routinely. I talk about that all of the time."

With Favre's late arrival to the Vikings this year, communication was an issue. On a touchdown attempt to Rice near the end zone, Favre threw the fade while Rice ran an out-and-up on an incomplete pass that forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal.

"I still think there's a lot of chemistry to be had. It was evident on numerous plays. I threw a fade route to Sidney on one play and there was a miscommunication. He was right, I was wrong," Favre said. "He had a little out and up, and I thought just based on the coverage he would just take it on a fade. And there are numerous other plays I could point to. To come out of the game with a win, of course we can run the ball, but there are going to be times, like today, when we are going to have to throw the ball in order to win.

"I think a big play in the game for us was the seam route to Percy after a penalty. I think they declined it after a sack. Those are the types of plays we have to make as far as the passing game is concerned."


After giving up seven touchdowns on special teams last year, the inconsistencies struck again when Joshua Cribbs had the Vikings' coverage grabbing at air on his way to a 67-yard touchdown return. It was the seventh return touchdown of Cribbs' career, tying him with former Brown Eric Metcalf for the franchise record.

"I thought we had a pretty good look at it. A couple of guys just jumped inside because they thought they were going to make a play. Other than that, I thought we clamped it down pretty well on that guy," Childress said. "Overall, the special teams did a good job. You never want to concede seven points."

In fact, Cribbs netted zero yardage on his other two returns, and he averaged only 23.3 yards on six kickoff returns.

The Vikings' return game was as good as it has been in years. Harvin was solid in kick returns, bringing back one of them 41 yards and totaling 99 yards on three returns, and Darius Reynaud had 54 yards on two punt returns, including a 36-yarder that gave him a better average (27.0) than Cribbs (22.3).

In addition to the punt return given up for a touchdown, the other area that stuck out negatively was a game-opening decision to go for a short kick to start the game. Abram Elam recovered and the Browns sluggish offense was set up on their own 49-yard line.

"We thought it was a slam dunk or we wouldn't have called it. When you look at their tape, there is a huge area right past that first line. We thought we would get a running start and lob it into that area. That was the plan," Childress said. "In my wildest dreams, I wouldn't believe that someone from the front line would get a hand on it before it reached that area. Ryan (Longwell) has executed that over 100 times and is probably 100-for-100 on the ones that I've seen."


Childress had been warming up his challenges during the preseason, and on Sunday he went to them early, using both of them on a Browns second-quarter drive.

On the first one, fullback Lawrence Vickers caught a 12-yard pass and fumbled the ball after being hit. However, because the officials missed the fumble in their initial on-field ruling, possession after the fumble was never established. Childress ran into the same ruling during the preseason.

"They said it was clearly a fumble but it wasn't a clear recovery. Anytime someone else jumps on the pile, and acts like they have the ball, the refs won't call it a clear recovery," he said.

Four plays later, Childress challenged what was initially ruled a touchdown by Braylon Edwards. Cedric Griffin was called for pass interference on the play, and Edwards clearly stepped out of bounds before catching the ball and getting into the end zone. The officials ruled that Edwards was forced out of bounds but failed to re-establish himself in bounds before making the catch.

The result was that the Browns took the pass interference penalty at the 6-yard line, but they had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown after three rushes failed to get into the end zone.


Wide receiver Bernard Berrian was active for the first time since the preseason opener, when he suffered a hamstring injury, but he didn't register any catches.

"We ran a lot of three tight end outfits, so we were able to mix and match what we did with him and Percy. With the three tight ends, that took (Berrian) off the hook a little bit," Childress said.

"He took the first bus over (to the stadium). They run around and see where they are at with the trainers and position coach. We had plenty of time to make that decision," Childress said.

Berrian was the target of two passes. One was basically a throwaway by Tarvaris Jackson late in the game and the other was a pass from Favre in which Berrian didn't create separation from the cornerback.


Jackson was the Vikings' backup quarterback, with Sage Rosenfels being the team's third (emergency) QB.

Also inactive for the Vikings were WRs Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis, CB Asher Allen, safety Jamarca Sanford, LB Erin Henderson, C Kory Lichtensteiger and DT Fred Evans.

For the Browns, QB Brett Ratliff (third QB), Marquis Floyd, DeAngelo Smith, Jerome Harrison, Cedric Peerman, Rex Hadnot, Martin Rucker and Leon Williams were inactive.

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