Lewis the unlikely hero

Greg Lewis' self-esteem is doing much better than it was three weeks ago. The wide receiver went from unemployed to unlikely recipient on one of the Vikings' most incredible fourth-quarter comebacks. It took a series of events for Lewis to even be on the field Sunday.

No one doubted that Brett Favre would be able to lead the Vikings on a comeback drive. He's brought his teams back from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie in the fourth quarter 42 times previously.

But Greg Lewis?

Favre and Lewis weren't even a part of the Vikings two months ago. Favre came out of voluntary retirement on Aug. 18. Lewis was cut by the New England Patriots earlier this month and signed by the Vikings on Sept. 10.

On Sunday, they were the odd couple sharing the same inflated room and the same crazed post-game celebration when Lewis caught Favre's 32-yard bullet to the back of the end zone with two second left to give the Vikings a 27-24 win.

"I wasn't confident that I had both feet in," Lewis admitted after the game. "My main goal was to catch the ball and that's our job as receivers is to catch the ball and work on dragging our feet (in bounds) in practice. Fortunately I was able to do so. They joke about me and my feet going east and west, and it helped today."

Lewis was joking a lot late Sunday afternoon. Why not? Earlier this month he was wondering where his football career would go next – if anywhere – after Bill Belichick released him from the Patriots.

"I was sitting in my apartment with low self-esteem, thinking about, "Huh, what am I going to do next?' I always had confidence in myself and I thought I'd get an opportunity somewhere," Lewis said.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was the first one to really give Lewis confidence in his professional career. He was an undrafted rookie free agent wondering if he would have any bit of an NFL career when his career began with the Philadelphia Eagles. But Childress told him after an offseason practice to keep doing what he was doing. After he signed with the Vikings, Lewis referenced that bit of advice from his former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia as giving him the confidence that he could make it in the league.

As fate would have it, Favre's favorite target in the game, Percy Harvin, was gassed after running several consecutive routes in the team's frenetic fourth-quarter, 10-play drive. Percy Harvin, the target of nine previous passes from Favre during the game, needed a break and Lewis was ready.

"Percy had just made a long catch, and it was a long drive. He had done eight plays in a row and I was really just trying to give him a break, give him one play and then go back in and it happened to be a big play," Lewis said.

Harvin never got the chance to go back in, as Lewis was mobbed by teammates after his touchdown catch.

Some limited statistics previously made his hero status all the more unlikely. It was only his first game active for the Vikings, and he might not have been active if Harvin hadn't been questionable during the week while suffering migraines. Darius Reynaud might have been the receiver in Lewis' spot if he hadn't suffered a leg injury earlier in the game. It was only Lewis' fourth play of the game. And it was the first time in his career he was targeted by Favre.

"To myself, yeah, I'm always the first option," Lewis joked "Everybody has the opportunity to get the ball on the play. I mean there are four verticals going down that field and he (Favre) just finds where he wants to throw and you need to be there."

In fact, Favre had no idea who he was even throwing to – he just saw a purple jersey with a step on a defender. And Favre got crushed shortly after releasing the ball so he didn't see the catch live.

Although Lewis was used more in Philadelphia, he made the most his four whole plays with the Vikings. It ranks right up there with another big catch that Lewis had, this one coming in Super Bowl XXXIX with the Eagles.

"We lost, but I thought it was sweet," Lewis joked.

Lewis had as many quips as plays on Sunday, certainly more jokes than catches. But his catch was no joke. It sent the sidelines and crowd into a frenzy and Lewis is sure to see the play over and over again.

He'll make of that.

"Oh yeah, I like seeing myself," he said.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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