Vikings focus on plenty of positives

While the sting of their overtime loss in the NFC Championship remains, Vikings coach Brad Childress was trying to focus on the positive things they accomplished in 2009. Much of that stems from the development of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin.

Brad Childress is hoping a disappointing finish doesn't overshadow what he considers an extremely successful season.

The Vikings' gut-wrenching 31-28 overtime loss to New Orleans in the NFC title game is going to take everyone associated with the franchise some time to get over. But when they do begin looking back, Childress wants them to see the entire picture.

A team that signed Brett Favre in late August after the veteran quarterback decided retirement didn't suit him for a second consecutive year, got more than it ever could have expected from its veteran quarterback.

Favre turned out to be the missing piece to the Vikings puzzle. He threw 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions in leading the Vikings to a 12-4 record, a second consecutive NFC North title and a first-round playoff rout of the Dallas Cowboys.

Favre also made everyone around him better, especially wide receiver Sidney Rice. Rice had a breakout season in his third year in the NFL as he caught a team-leading 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.

It was clear that Favre had great faith in Rice and the chemistry between the two meant Rice would see the ball at any point and no matter how well-covered he appeared to be. He wasn't the only one that benefitted from Favre's arrival.

Wide receiver Percy Harvin, the NFL's offensive rookie of the year, had 60 receptions for 790 yards and six touchdowns and Visanthe Shiancoe set a team record for a tight end by catching 11 touchdown passes.

The interesting thing in all of this was that when Favre arrived the expectation was he would be more of a game manager and running back Adrian Peterson would run wild because teams had to respect the Vikings' pass game for the first time since Childress arrived in 2006.

Things went according to plan in the Vikings' season-opening victory at Cleveland as Favre threw for 110 yards and Peterson ran for 180 and three touchdowns. But as the season progressed it became clear that this was turning more and more into Favre's team.

That was fine when the Vikings were 10-1 entering the month of December, but some friction arose when they hit a rough spot in the final full month of the regular season. The Vikings lost three of four and Favre and Childress had a dust up about how the offense was run in a loss at Carolina.

Just how much friction there was isn't clear, but it might play a role in whether Favre returns next season. He took a beating in the Vikings' postseason loss at New Orleans but for much of the season was kept clean by his offensive line.

Favre also proved that after having surgery last spring on a partially torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm that he hadn't lost much zip on his fastball. If Favre feels he can do it again in 2010, it's likely the Vikings will welcome him back during a season in which he will turn 41.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't have an expectation. I know he had a great experience here. I know it too well to know that emotions are a little bit raw right now. We're still too close to it. He's earned his time to be able to step away from it and talk to his family and figure out what he wants to do. But I don't have a strong expectation one way or the other. It would not surprise me one way or the other." - Vikings coach Brad Childress when asked if he expected Brett Favre to return next season.

NOTES

  • The Vikings lost Cedric Griffin to a torn left anterior cruciate ligament against New Orleans, creating the potential their starting right cornerback won't be available for the beginning of next season.

    Coach Brad Childress said the recovery period for a torn ACL is six-to-nine months. If it takes Griffin nine months, he would be out until November.

    The Vikings' options could include moving Asher Allen into a bigger role or re-signing Benny Sapp, who saw extensive time this season at corner after Antoine Winfield got hurt. Sapp is set to become a free agent this March.

    On the coaching front, the Vikings could be faced with losing quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers. The Chicago Bears are pursuing Rogers for their offensive coordinator's position.

  • Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman and Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell were among team officials who attended the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Coach Brad Childress and his assistants did not plan to go because of the team's deep playoff run.

  • The Vikings' loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game means they are slated to select 30th in the first round in this spring's draft.

  • The Vikings had 10 players named to the Pro Bowl but only five were slated to play as of the middle of the week. Among those who pulled out because of injuries were quarterback Brett Favre, wide receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield. The five remaining Vikings on the NFC roster — defensive end Jared Allen, tackle Bryant McKinnie, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Adrian Peterson and special-teamer Heath Farwell — were expected to play.

  • The Vikings' loss to the Saints in the NFC title game means Minnesota has now dropped five championship games in a row. That includes losses to Dallas (1977), Washington (1987), Atlanta (1998), and the New York Giants (2000).

  • Chester Taylor finished first among running backs in the NFL and tied for sixth among all players with 26 receptions for 257 yards on third down this season. It is the second consecutive year that Taylor has been at the top of running backs for receptions on third down.

  • Since entering the league in 2003, Kevin Williams leads all NFL defensive tackles with 48.5 sacks. After leading NFL defensive tackles with 8.5 sacks in 2008, Williams was tied for first among players at that position with six this season.

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