Favre unable to rally Vikes past Saints

BY Alex Marvez • September 9, 2010

The perception of Brett Favre as the goat of last season’s NFC championship game is debatable.

There is no argument that he garnered the dubious distinction in Thursday night’s rematch.

By handcuffing the high-powered New Orleans offense, the Minnesota Vikings were in position to become purple party crashers at the Saints’ season-opening festivities. Favre, though, once again couldn’t ruin another black-and-gold celebration.

Although he didn’t throw a critical fourth-quarter interception as he did in last season’s 31-28 overtime loss to New Orleans, Favre doomed the Vikings with a lousy second-half performance. He completed only four of his final 12 passes for 44 yards. That allowed the Saints to hang on for a surprisingly low-scoring 14-9 win.

“We were right where we wanted to be at halftime,” said Vikings coach Brad Childress, whose team entered the third quarter with a 9-7 lead. “Unfortunately, we were three-and-out far too many times.”

Three exactly, along with another series that ended after four offensive snaps. Minnesota also got no closer than the Saints’ 44-yard line in the final two quarters. Ultimately, too much strain was placed on what became a fatigued defense. New Orleans ran off the final 5:32 on the clock to end the game.

The Saints’ defense deserves credit for some of Minnesota’s failings. Childress admitted that he expected more blitzing like in the NFC title game when Favre was hit a bone-jarring 16 times. The Vikings also were caught off-guard by more 3-4 and odd-front alignments than what Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams usually deploys.

“(Favre) was antsy,” said Saints middle linebacker Jon Vilma, who notched a first-quarter interception. “He wasn’t able to set his feet. He wasn’t able to make the throws he would (normally) make.”

The Vikings, though, had their chances. Favre couldn’t connect consistently after hitting on 11 of 15 first-half attempts.

“I know after we watch the film, we’re going to be disappointed in the things we left out there,” Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said.

To his credit, Favre didn’t try to make excuses for his failings.

“You can’t miss open guys,” Favre said. “You get guys open in this league very rarely, so you’ve got to make the tough throws. More than anything, that for me is what I’ll think about – some of those throws you have to make in a tough situation.”

Favre had two pretty completions that reflected his future Hall of Fame status. They were both throws to Shiancoe, including a 20-yard touchdown strike just before halftime. That was about it.

“I can’t say we were hitting on all cylinders like in the championship game. I’d be lying,” said Favre, who threw for 310 yards on 28-for-46 passing in that contest. “You can call it rusty. People are going to have their own opinions. Whatever.

“There were a lot of opportunities we capitalized on but there were way more that we didn’t. The fact is they were there. There were plays to be made. That’s what I’m concerned about. If we were not any good, it would be obvious.”

But how good can the 2010 Vikings be, especially without Sidney Rice? Favre’s favorite target is sidelined until at least midseason following hip surgery. Rice’s absence will place an even heavier load on running back Adrian Peterson, who did look sharp in a 19-carry, 87-yard outing. It also has left Favre sometimes throwing to lesser targets like backup wide receivers Greg Lewis and Greg Camarillo, both of whom were unable to corral off-target second-half throws.

Compounding the problem: Camarillo is still learning the offense, having been acquired Aug. 25 from Miami. Plus, the Vikings are breaking in a new backup running back – the unproven Albert Young – to replace departed veteran Chester Taylor (Chicago).

“It is different without Sidney,” Favre allowed. “But Sidney had a handful of catches last year (against New Orleans) — none down the field. ... Their style of defense last year was the same tonight. They’re not going to give up an outside big play. You have to catch it underneath and run. You’ve got to handle their blitz packages and things like that.

“Do we have guys who can go up and make plays like Sidney did last year? Time will tell. But it had nothing to do with the misses I had with those guys tonight.”

Maybe these problems were self-inflicted. Because he missed the first two preseason games while deciding whether to play again, Favre squandered the chance to further build timing and hone his own skills.

We’ll know soon enough whether Favre can overcome the same type of sluggish start that he had in 2009. To inspire his team before last season’s NFC title game, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton reportedly told Saints players that the 40-year-old Favre would transform into “an old man who’s scared of the rain” if pounded enough.

A relatively unscathed Favre was moving around fine after Thursday night’s game. But if there isn’t offensive improvement soon, Minnesota’s Super Bowl dreams and what Favre claims will be his final NFL season will get all wet.

“I do feel like I’m better today than I was last year (at this time),” Favre said. “Now, it’s a new set of receivers to a certain degree. That’s always a little tougher each time you have to work with someone new, especially when it’s for real (in the regular season).

“I like our guys. It’ll fall back on me. Those guys run the routes. I have to make the throws.”

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