Even Brett Favre has to be impressed, if he wasn't so sore. In his first regular-season game in the Metrodome as a member of the Vikings, he had one of his – or any quarterback's – most dramatic comebacks in a 27-24 Minnesota win.
With two seconds left and the Vikings trailing 24-20, Favre scrambled to buy time, and released a 32-yard bullet to another relatively new Viking, wide receiver Greg Lewis, who made a diving, toe-dragging catch in the back of the end zone to give Minnesota a 27-24 win over previously unbeaten San Francisco. The victory put the Vikings at 3-0 and awaiting Favre's first game against his former team, as the 2-1 Green Bay Packers come to Minneapolis for a Monday night game of epic hype.
Favre finally had to the throw the ball often, as the 49ers concentrated on stringing out Adrian Peterson along the line of scrimmage and limited him to 4.5 yards per carry. Favre completed 24 of 46 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was the first 300-yard passing game in the Brad Childress era, and the first 3-0 start in the Childress era.
The Vikings won most of the key statistical battles, but they gave up the lead for the first time when time expired in the first half when Ray McDonald blocked a field goal attempt and Nate Clements scooped and scored from 59 yards out. When the 49ers took a 24-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter, even Favre thought the team may have blown its last chance at a win when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 1:50 to play. But the Vikings defense shut down the 49ers in three plays and used all three of their timeouts to get the ball back with 1:29 to play.
Favre went to work with mid-length passes that moved the ball to the 32-yard line with 12 seconds to play. In a last-ditch effort, Favre threw to the back of the end zone to a streaking purple jersey. It happened to be Greg Lewis, making his first appearance for the Vikings and grabbing one of the biggest catches of his career, a 32-yard, game-winning touchdown for the win.
The Vikings started strong, but a few key mistakes left them fighting for the win at the end.
The game couldn't have started much better for the Vikings defense, with Jared Allen coming around the edge and stripping Shaun Hill of the ball, but the 49ers recovered and salvaged a punt. Three-and-outs were the story of the game early, as the first three possessions for both teams ended that way, but the Vikings took advantage of a penalty to extend their second drive.
On third-and-7, a defensive holding penalty on Michael Lewis kept the drive alive after an incompletion to Visanthe Shiancoe. Chester Taylor moved the chains again with some elusiveness after a short pass, and Peterson followed with a 35-yard run around the right end. One play later, Favre fired a bullet on a slant to Sidney Rice, who strided into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 8:38 to play in the first quarter.
The Vikings held the 49ers without a first down in the first quarter, and the offense had great field position to start the second quarter after a 32-yard punt return from Darius Reynaud put them on the 34-yard line. They picked up one first down on an 11-yard hot read to Taylor but couldn't get any closer than the 22-yard line. Ryan Longwell extended the lead to 10-0 with 13:09 to play in the first half with a 40-yard field goal.
Just like Reynaud's punt return set up the Vikings, Allen Rossum's 40-yard kick return put the 49ers near midfield. The 49ers drive was aided by two costly Vikings penalties. On third-and-3, Cedric Griffin was flagged for a delay of game, and on fourth-and-1 following a 25-yard gain to Josh Morgan, E.J. Henderson was flagged for a blow to the head on Shaun Hill. The 49ers were set up on the 5-yard line and Hill immediately found Vernon Davis for the touchdown to draw the 49ers within three points, 10-7, with 9:26 to play in the second quarter.
The Vikings went three-and-out, but Cedric Griffin quickly gave them the ball back with an interception, setting up a field goal drive that was aided by 49ers penalties. On first down, DE Justin Smith was called for unnecessary roughness from a blow to Favre's knee after he released a pass. That put the Vikings at their own 45-yard line and they got another big penalty against the 49ers for taunting that put them on San Francisco's 40. Three plays later, Longwell gave them a 13-7 lead with a 52-yard field goal with 3:26 left in the half.
When the Vikings shut down the 49ers in three plays, the offense had a chance to get aggressive with Favre under center with 2 minutes to play. On third-and-9, Favre found Chester Taylor with a step on Patrick Willis for a 30-yard pass play to midfield. On third-and-1, Favre hit Shiancoe for a 10-yard pass to the 30-yard line and the Vikings were in field goal position with 28 seconds to play in the half. On third-and-10, Rice picked up 14 yards, but Anthony Herrera was called for a hold, backing them up to the 26-yard line, and Longwell came on for his third attempt of the game. This time, however, it backfired when McDonald blew through the line to block it and Clements scooped it up for a 59-yard return for a touchdown as time expired for a 14-13 San Francisco halftime lead.
The defense continued to play stout to start the second half, but on the Vikings' initial third down of the half, Favre fired a pass for Bernard Berrian in the middle of the field that was tipped and intercepted by Shawntae Spencer.
Without Gore in the game, Glen Coffee picked up the slack. He started the drive with a 12-yard reception, then ran it for 12 more. He picked up another first down and put the 49ers in field goal position, where Joe Nedney hit a 37-yarder to give San Francisco a 17-13 lead with 4:47 to play in the third quarter.
Harvin answered in a big way. Fielding the ensuing kickoff, he started veering to the left, cut back inside one defender to the middle of the field and used his incredible speed to easily outdistance the pursuit on his way to a 101-yard return, tied for the second-longest in team history. That gave the Vikings the lead again at 20-17 with 4:34 to play in the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts leading into the fourth quarter, the 49ers put together their most impressive and efficient drive of the game. Hill started with a 10-yard completion to Isaac Bruce and then found Vernon Davis for 31 yards one play later. On the next snap, Hill connected with Bruce for 28 yards. Four plays later, Hill found Davis for a 20-yard touchdown and a 24-20 49ers lead with 8:12 to play.
The Vikings offense stalled on two consecutive drives, but the defense gave Favre one last shot, and he was finally able to take advantage. He hit Visanthe Shiancoe for 12 yards, Rice for 9 and Harvin for 5 before spiking the ball at his own 46-yard line with 40 second to play. Harvin got 15 more. Another spike with 16 seconds left. Berrian got 7 yards to get Favre into firing range. With 12 seconds on the clock, Favre scrambled to buy time and Lewis followed his eyes in trying to get open. Favre fired. Lewis dove, caught the ball and dragged the feet. And the Vikings won.
The win sets up one of the biggest Monday night games in a long time. Storylines will be plentiful. The Packers will try to chase down a tie for first place in the division, but there is no doubt that Favre will be the focus, and his last-minute performance against the 49ers only enhances the hype.
Comeback for the aged: Vikings win, 27-24
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