There was a lot of controversy that surrounded the decision to pursue and sign Brett Favre, but, as he completed his first (and perhaps last) season as a Minnesota Viking, all he has done is arguably put up the best numbers of his career, much less his best numbers of the last decade. The accomplishments run deep. Plus, we tell the tale of the game with more than three dozen notes.
When the Vikings signed Brett Favre
in August, his arrival was met with mixed emotions. There were some fans whose hatred of the Packers was such that they couldn't get past the fact that Favre, a former Packer, would be wearing purple. There were also fans on the other end of that spectrum – those who thought they could rekindle some of the magic that made Favre a legend in Green Bay and a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer when he finally does hang up his cleats for good.
But could anyone have predicted what a difference Favre would make in the Vikings offense? He was no spring chicken when he arrived at Winter Park, but it seemed obvious he would be an upgrade to what the Vikings had going. In his first three years as head coach, Brad Childress had gone through five starting quarterbacks – Brad Johnson
, Brooks Bollinger, Tarvaris Jackson
, Kelly Holcomb
and Gus Frerotte. They weren't guys that terrified defensive coordinators, but many believed Favre was simply coming back to the NFC North out of spite and that his numbers wouldn't reflect his Hall of Fame resume. How wrong could they have been?
With a 50-yard pass to Sidney Rice
in the second quarter, Favre went over 4,000 passing yards for the season. In his illustrious career, it is just the sixth time he has topped 4,000 yards in a season. Had he not been pulled in the third quarter, he would have had the second-highest yardage total of his career. He finished with 4,202 yards, just 12 short of the total he had in 1998 and 211 yards shy of his career best in 1995.
With his 4,000-yard season, Favre became just the fourth Viking in franchise history to top 4,000 yards passing. Daunte Culpepper
holds the franchise record with 4,717 in 2004. The other two were by Warren Moon in 1994 (4,264 yards) and 1995 (4,228 yards).
His 33 touchdown passes this year tied for third all-time in Vikings history and the only time he threw more touchdowns in a season were his MVP seasons from 1995-97.
But perhaps the most impressive number was his passer rating. A confusing collection of parameters to determine the effectiveness of a quarterback, because of his penchant for throwing interceptions – part and parcel with being a "gunslinger" – Favre never had a season in which he had a passer rating higher than 100. He came close a couple of times – his career high was in one of his MVP seasons in 1995, when he posted a passer rating of 99.5. But he had six seasons with passer ratings of 81.0 or less – including each of the last three. This year, he shattered his personal best with a passer rating of 107.2 – which was second in the league behind only Drew Brees
The reason for his meteoric rise up that chart was due in large part to his lack of interceptions. Favre has never been shy about throwing dangerous passes that can get picked off. His previous career low was 13 – a number he last posted in 1996. Since then, his interception totals were pretty fat – 16, 23, 23, 16, 15, 16, 21, 17, 29, 18, 15 and 22. There was one thing you knew about Favre. He would throw interceptions. But this year, he threw just seven picks in 531 pass attempts. Combine that with 363 completions – tied for the second most of his career – and a career-best 68.4 percent completion rate, it's no wonder Favre is getting talked about as a potential MVP candidate.
For all the questions and concerns about Favre when he arrived in Minnesota, all he has done is put together perhaps his best overall season as a pro, silenced his critics and, thanks to the Eagles loss Sunday afternoon to Dallas, put the Vikings in position to make a legitimate Super Bowl run.
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings won their second straight NFC North Division title for the first time since 1978.
The Vikings and New England were the only teams to finish the 2009 regular season unbeaten at home. It was the Vikings' first undefeated home regular season since 1998.
The 12-4 season marked the third time in Childress' four years as head coach that the Vikings have improved by two games in the standings. They went 6-10 in his first year, 8-8 in 2006, 10-6 last year and 12-4 this season.
The Vikings' 470 points scored this season was the second highest in team history – trailing only the 556 points scored by the 1998 team. The Vikings outscored their opponents in each quarter – 69-29 in the first quarter, 156-101 in the second, 111-56 in the third and 134-126 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Vikings had four players score eight or more touchdowns in a season for the first time since 1998 – Adrian Peterson (18), Visanthe Shiancoe (11), Sidney Rice (8) and Percy Harvin (8).
The 132 points scored by Ryan Longwell was a personal best, beating out his 2000 total with the Packers by one point. It was the second highest point total for a Vikings kicker in franchise history, behind only the whopping 164 points scored by Gary Anderson in 1998.
Peterson lost out on the NFC rushing title, finishing with 1,383 yards – 36 yards behind Steven Jackson of the Rams.
After fighting an uphill battle most of the season, the Vikings could finish as high as second in rushing defense. The Vikings entered the final week in fourth place, but allowed just 35 yards rushing Sunday. That was enough to pass the Steelers into third place and will be second if the Bengals allow 78 or more rushing yards to the Jets – the league's top rushing offense – tonight.
The Vikings finished with four players with 55 or more receptions – Rice (83), Harvin (60), Shiancoe (56) and Bernard Berrian (55) – and had two others with more than 40 –
Chester Taylor (44) and Peterson (43). The Vikings were the first team since the 1983 Cowboys to have six players with 40 or more receptions.
The Vikings scored 19 rushing touchdowns, while allowing just five.
Eight different Vikings caught at least one touchdown pass this season.
Jared Allen finished the season with 14.5 sacks for the second straight year.
With his touchdown Sunday, Peterson took sole possession of second place in franchise history for most touchdowns in a season. Chuck Foreman set the franchise record in 1975 with 22 touchdowns. Peterson was tied with three others at 17 touchdowns - Randy Moss in both 1998 and 2003 and Cris Carter in 1995.
The Vikings domination of the Giants was complete and unquestioned. The Vikes outgained New York 487-181. The Vikings had 358 yards passing and 129 yards rushing, while the Giants had just 181 yards – 146 passing, 35 rushing.
Despite taking most of their starters out midway through the third quarter, the Vikings still dominated the number of snaps from center – running 69 plays to just 43 for the Giants.
The Vikings defense was at its best on third down, allowing the Giants to convert just one of eight third-down chances.
It was a pretty sloppy game in terms of penalties. The Giants were called for 13 penalties that covered 95 yards, while the Vikings had eight penalties for 45 yards.
The Vikings got in the Giants red zone eight times Sunday, scoring touchdowns on five of them and kicking field goals on the other three.
Favre was brilliant once again, completing 25 of 31 passes for 316 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Vikings almost had two 100-yard receivers. Rice topped 100 yards for the fourth time this season with six catches for 112. Shiancoe had seven catches for 94 yards – all in the first half.
Nine different Vikings caught passes Sunday.
How dominant was the Vikings offense Sunday? They only punted twice – once in the first quarter and once in the fourth quarter. Their other eight drives ended in scores.
In a sight and sound experience many Vikings fans thought they would never witness, in the fourth quarter the crowd started a chant of "Let's Go Cowboys!" – a chant referencing the Dallas-Philadelphia game, with the Cowboys needing to win for the Vikings to get the second seed and a first-round bye.
Linebacker Ben Leber said he and his teammates heard the chant and were pretty amused by it.
"I did hear that," Leber said. "Certain situations call for drastic measures. I loved the crowd saying that and I'll definitely be watching that game."
Fullback Naufahu Tahi added his name to the exhaustive list of players on the receiving end of touchdown passes from Favre. For Tahi, it was the first touchdown of his pro career. He said he got a lump in his throat when he heard the play call – which had him as the first receiving option.
"It feels good to finally get one," Tahi said. "It's been since college since I scored one. They called my number. The play was drawn up for me. We've run it a couple of times this year, but every time they had a guy out there covering me. My eyes got pretty big when I looked out there and saw nobody."
When asked if he kept the ball, Tahi smiled and said, "You bet I did. Nobody was going to take that away from me."
Jared Allen may be hearing from the NFL fine cops. In the third quarter, Allen got a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the same play. He was in a celebratory mood and launched the ball into the crowd, which will likely draw him a fine from the league – which frowns on such activities.
When the Vikings went up 41-0 in the third quarter, there were more than a few hoots from Vikings fans, who haven't forgotten the 41-0 loss to the Giants in January 2001 in the NFC Championship Game.
If there was a cause for concern Sunday, it was the punt returning of Darius Reynaud. He fumbled two punts and bobbled a third. Given his body or work during the season, it isn't likely that this would be enough to relieve of him of his return duties for the playoffs, but it is reason for legitimate concern.
The Vikings scored on eight of their first nine drives in the game – five of six in the first half and their first three in the second half.
In the second half of the Bears game and the first half of Sunday's game, the Vikings scored 61 points in 60 minutes.
In the first half of Sunday's game, the Vikings dominated every aspect of the game. They had 343 yards of offense (271 passing, 72 rushing) to just 82 by the Giants (66 passing, 16 rushing) – a disparity that would have been even greater if not for a 26-yard completion on the final play of the first half by the Giants.
Favre completed 19 of 23 passes in the first half for 271 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 155.3 – just three points off of perfect. Shiancoe led the receivers with seven catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, followed by Rice with five catches for 83 yards and two scores. Peterson led the Vikings' rushing attack with seven carries for 32 yards.
The Giants were brutal in the first half. Manning completed eight of 12 passes for just 73 yards, with Steve Smith catching four of those for 24 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw had just 13 rushing yards on six carries.
Harvin looked to have a TD in the first half, but an offensive pass interference penalty negated the touchdown. The Vikings would still get a touchdown to Rice on the same drive.
The Vikings blew a potential chance to break the game open earlier than they did in the second quarter after Peterson was stopped on a third-and-1 run, leaving the Vikings a foot short of the first down. Initially planning to kick a field goal, the Vikings brought the offense back out on the field. However, it required calling a timeout. When the team came back out, Favre tried to get the Giants to jump offside. However, all that happened was Jim Kleinsasser jumped. It cost the Vikings five yards and they settled for a 36-yard Ryan Longwell field goal.
With his first-quarter touchdown pass, Favre reached the 30-touchdown plateau for the ninth time in his career, but the first time since 2004.
With a 23-yard run late in the first quarter, Peterson passed his rushing total from his rookie season (1,341 yards) and moved him into third place on the all-time single-season rushing list – behind his own performance in 2008 (1,760 yards) and Robert Smith in 2000 (1,521 yards).
Steve Smith caught his 100th pass of the season in the first quarter for the Giants.
After getting off to slow starts in each of the last four games offensively, the Vikings came out strong Sunday. After a pooch kick was returned by Jeff Dugan to the 40-yard line, the Vikings never faced a third down in driving 60 yards on five plays. Harvin highlighted the drive with a 22-yard run and Favre found Shiancoe wide open for a 10-yard touchdown.
With his 22-yard run in the opening drive, Harvin's total yards jumped to 2,022. That set a team record for most total yards by a rookie, passing the mark of 2,021 set by Peterson in 2007.
The Giants inactive list looked like a who's who, as seven starters were out of the lineup. Running back Brandon Jacobs and cornerback Aaron Ross were placed on injured reserve earlier in the week and five other starters – CB Corey Webster, OT Kareem McKenzie, OG Rich Seubert, WR Mario Manningham and DT Chris Canty – were all inactive.
Neal Broten sounded the ceremonial Gjallarhorn prior to the start of Sunday's game. Broten is a Minnesota icon, having played for the Gophers, North Stars and the Minnesota-laden 1980 U.S. Olympic team of "Miracle On Ice" fame.
The paid attendance was 63,856, the 125th straight Metrodome sellout dating back to 1998.