Favre Gets Off to a Winning Start
CLEVELAND - On a Sunday he could have spent at home in Mississippi watching on TV from an easy chair, Brett Favre instead got a field-level view of the Adrian Peterson show.
In his first regular-season start as quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, his fourth NFL team, Favre was not Favre-like on the stats sheet: 14-for-21 for 110 yards and one touchdown. But his 25 handoffs to Peterson made the difference in the Vikings' 34-20 opening-day victory vs. the Cleveland Browns.
"I haven't played with a running back like that. The guy is pretty awesome. I guess it's an understatement," Favre said after Peterson ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns, including a 64-yard highlight-clip romp in the final quarter.
The game illustrated that Favre, 39, who came out of his second retirement in mid-August to sign a two-year, $25 million contract, doesn't have to carry the Vikings offense, at least not every week.
What was Favre's take on his performance at the start of his 19th NFL season?
"I had a blast. It wasn't a 400-yard passing game, and it doesn't have to be," he said. "I'll be the first to tell you I'll take that any day of the week as long as we win."
But he acknowledged there will be days down the road when Peterson isn't running wild and the passing game will have to step up. There were moments Sunday when it was apparent Favre is still getting to know his receivers. But modest stats aside, he did make Favre-like plays. Peterson took note of that.
"We're going to balance it out," Peterson said. "That's our approach, to have people play us even and not overload the box. He helps me out, I help him out, and hopefully we will continue to win."
In his last game of the 2008 season with the New York Jets, Favre threw for one touchdown and was intercepted three times. He did not throw an interception against Cleveland on Sunday. He was sacked four times, but Vikings coach Brad Childress didn't have a problem with him taking sacks instead of forcing throws.
"I'll take a sack anytime as opposed to turning the ball over," Childress said. He described Favre's play as "workmanlike."
"There were no blips," the coach said. "Not to make it sound like unspectacular is a bad thing. It's making the routine plays routinely. That's just something we're looking for."
The role of game manager is a new one for Favre, who was known during his 16 years with the Green Bay Packers as a quarterback with a so-called gunslinger's mentality.
On the Vikings' second drive, they had third-and-goal at the Cleveland 3. Favre and wide receiver Sidney Rice got their signals crossed. Favre threw into the end zone, but his pass sailed one way, Rice turned the other and the Vikings settled for a field goal.
"I still think there's a lot of chemistry yet (to be developed)," Favre said. "It was evident on numerous plays. He (Rice) was right. I was wrong."
Favre, who joined the reigning NFC North champions Aug. 19, hasn't had time to gel completely with his receiving corps. And the three-time league MVP, who'll turn 40 on Oct. 10, is coming off a season in which he threw for 3,472 yards, 22 TDs and 22 interceptions in his one year with the Jets.
"Is he completely, completely comfortable? I'm not sure he's ready to make that assertion," Childress said. "But he goes to school every week. Nothing like a game to see what you've really got."
In the third quarter, Favre faced a second-and-18 at the Vikings 21. He responded with a 21-yard completion down the middle to rookie Percy Harvin. Though Favre had surgery this summer to repair a torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm (an injury that hampered him in his final weeks with the Jets), he showed zip on the throw to Harvin.
"That's the type of play we have to make," Favre said.
The pass sparked an 82-yard touchdown drive capped by his 6-yard pass to Harvin that gave the Vikings a 24-13 lead.
Favre, who was one of five captains selected in a team vote over the weekend, tackled the rookie in celebration.
"I feel like I'm gaining the trust of these guys, and I felt like over time that I did that last year," said Favre, who tied former Vikings great Jim Marshall's NFL mark for consecutive starts (270).
The TD pass was the 465th of Favre's career, extending his NFL record.
"I don't know how many I've thrown, but they've all been a blast," he said.
The victory spoiled the debut of Eric Mangini, Favre's coach with the Jets last season, as head coach of the Browns.
"In the second half, I'm not sure how many times he actually threw the ball or threw it downfield or was asked to do those things," Mangini said. "He can do those things. I think it was more of an emphasis on running the football at that point."
Three of Cleveland's defensive starters also were former Jets.
"It was nice to see Eric. I had a nice moment with him before and after the game," Favre said.
He also chatted during and after the game with his former Jets teammates.
"I shouldn't say it felt weird looking across (the line)," he said. "If you play long enough, that happens. Guys come and go. Coaches come and go."
Then he added a line that drew a laugh: "I've come and gone."
Peterson gets replenished@
Peterson, the NFL leader last season with 1,760 rushing yards on 363 carries, managed 25 yards on nine carries in the first half. In addition to feeling what he described as "lightheaded" and "weak," he said he suffered a cut to his left arm in the first half.
At halftime, Peterson said for the first time in his three-year career he was given intravenous fluids. They appeared to work, because he ran for 155 yards on 16 carries in the second half.
"I was able to come back in the second half, get back in sync with those guys and take care of business," he said.
On his 64-yard scoring run, at least five Browns defenders got at least a hand on him.
"It was pretty good," he said.
Just pretty good?
"I didn't go untouched, but that was fine," he said.
Peterson did his news conference in a stylish, checked sports coat and tie. He couldn't help but notice that Favre dressed entirely differently.
"He's been doing it for a long time," Peterson said. "He can come in here with T-shirts and Wranglers as long as he gets the job done."