The Vikings have fallen behind in each of their first two games, but they haven't had a problem executing comebacks for convincing wins. What's the difference this year? If you ask players (and many observers), it's at the quarterback position.
The Vikings have trailed at halftime of both their games this season, yet unlike in recent seasons this has been no cause for concern.
Granted they were playing inferior opponents, but both times the Vikings have calmly rallied for convincing victories. In a 34-20 victory over Cleveland in Week 1, the Vikings scored 24 unanswered points in the second half. On Sunday, the Vikings went on a 27-0 run to easily beat the Lions 27-13 after trailing 10-0 at one point.
So what's the difference for a team that will play host to San Francisco in its home opener Sunday?
There is little doubt that a big part of it is the presence of veteran quarterback Brett Favre
. Favre hasn't put up big passing numbers to date, but he has brought an air of confidence that simply didn't seem to exist with Brad Childress' team before the future Hall of Fame quarterback arrived on the scene.
"He brings a presence," wide receiver Bernard Berrian
said. "I guess knowing that he's always going to be capable of making a play is the calming attitude that he brings."
Favre's demeanor might be his most valuable asset at this point. He is among the NFL leaders in completion percentage and passer rating but has thrown for only 265 yards in two games because the Vikings main weapon is a ground game led by Adrian Peterson
Nonetheless, it's Favre who must set the tempo in the huddle and on the sideline. Part of what makes Favre so good at this is his ability to convince teammates that success comes from simply having fun on the field. Plus, there aren't many situations Favre is going to find himself in that will be new at this point in his 19-year career.
"There was no panic on the sidelines this past game," said center John Sullivan
, who is in his second season with the Vikings and first as a starter. "You get down 10 points, go back and put seven on the board and you're right there. That's about everybody on the offense, not just Brett. But he brings a calming influence to the huddle but also a sense of urgency to put some points up there. You've got to go out and score. He's a great leader for our offense.
"He tries to get guys fired up. Obviously he has a great huddle presence. You can't say enough about what he does."
Favre, who broke former Viking Jim Marshall's record by making his 271st consecutive start last Sunday at Detroit, has the Vikings off to a 2-0 start and is at or near the top of the NFL in completion percentage (77.1) and passer rating (110.2). But Favre has only 265 yards passing and has yet to have a completion for more than 21 yards. One would think that is going to have to change at some point as the Vikings face better defenses than they saw in Cleveland and Detroit. Coach Brad Childress said there are no questions about Favre's arm strength, although he did have surgery in late May to repair a torn biceps tendon.
QB Tarvaris Jackson was the backup to Brett Favre for the second consecutive game. That means Sage Rosenfels has been the No. 3 (emergency) quarterback. Jackson has entered late in the Vikings' first two games once they have had a comfortable lead. However, he also was used on the punt coverage unit Sunday in Detroit. Jackson lined up as the up-man and then faked a pass to Darius Reynaud out of a formation that featured three gunners to each side. Chris Kluwe actually got the snap and punted the ball but the fact Jackson was on the field provided an unexpected look.
RB Adrian Peterson, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,760 yards in
2008, is back at it. He leads the league with 272 yards on 40 carries with four touchdowns in the opening two weeks. Peterson's presence is one reason the Vikings don't feel the need to throw the ball much. However, eventually that's going to become key if Minnesota wants to try to loosen up defenses for the third-year player.
RB Chester Taylor rushed for only eight yards on four carries against the Lions after gaining 17 yards on seven attempts in Week 1. Taylor, though, is still seeing plenty of action on third down and caught three passes for 20 yards playing in his hometown of Detroit. Taylor is incredibly value because of the professionalism he brings to the job. This is one guy who goes about his business and never complains publicly about his role, despite the fact he could be starting for some teams in the NFL.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe caught only one pass against the Lions but it went for a 1-yard touchdown. Shiancoe also was the intended receiver on another pass deep in Detroit territory but there was some type of miscommunication with Brett Favre on the route. Shiancoe was the intended target of three Favre passes last Sunday, meaning six balls have been thrown his way in the first two games.
WR Bernard Berrian did not catch a ball in Week 1 as he continued to battle a hamstring injury. That changed on Sunday as he hauled in all six passes that were thrown his way. One of the Vikings' big-play threats, the interesting thing about Berrian's stats was the fact his receptions went for only 46 yards and the longest pass thrown to him was 11 yards. His 7.7 yard average per catch was well below the NFL-leading 20.1 yards per catch he averaged in 2008.
WR Percy Harvin became only the second Vikings rookie to catch a touchdown pass in his first two games. Harvin caught a 3-yard scoring pass from Brett Favre in the fourth quarter Sunday in Detroit. Sammy White caught touchdown passes in his first two games in 1976. No Vikings rookie has caught a touchdown pass in his first three games.
DE Jared Allen had a sack, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble Sunday after being largely held in check a week earlier against Cleveland. Allen's impact is such that teams are either forced to double team him and risk having another Vikings lineman create havoc or trying to single up the Pro Bowl right end. The Vikings also are moving Allen to left end this season on occasion to try to free him up from those double teams.
DE Ray Edwards had a team-leading eight tackles and a sack at Detroit after getting a sack, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries in Week 1 against the Browns. The left end is within three sacks for his total all of last season.
S Madieu Williams had to leave Sunday's game for a couple of snaps in the fourth quarter after his braces cut through his lip while he was delivering a hit on Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Safety Jamarca Sanford, the Vikings' seventh-round pick who was making his NFL debut, ended up replacing Williams for those two plays.