The NFL's oldest starting quarterback, 40-year-old Brett Favre, continued to struggle in his 20th season, his third straight game marked by inconsistency and ineffectiveness. While Minnesota (1-2) finally earned its first win of the season, 24-10 over Detroit, Favre only added to the fuel for his critics that maybe his day in the sun truly is over.
Favre came into the game ranked in the lower half of most QB rankings in the league, certainly uncharacteristic of both his ability and the way he's played through most of his career. He didn't do much to improve his lot in Sunday's game, completing 23 of 34 passes for just 201 yards and a touchdown, was sacked twice and threw two interceptions that led to all 10 points for the hapless Lions, who fell to 0-3 in the young season.
Having now been intercepted six times and sacked as many times over the first three games, Favre not only continued to play ineffectively Sunday, he looked almost disinterested through much of the game, as if he was wishing he was anywhere but Mall of America Field.
Of particular note was his first interception, which led to Detroit's first points late in the first quarter. On first-and-10 on the Vikings' 43, Favre tossed a lackadaisical screen pass to his left intended for Toby Gerhart. Lions' defensive tackle Corey Williams, a former teammate of Favre's with Green Bay, stepped in front of Gerhart, grabbed the ball and lumbered 27 yards to Minnesota's 12. Three plays later, the Lions lit the scoreboard first on a five-yard pass from Shaun Hill to Tony Scheffler.
Then, with less than a minute left in the first half, another Favre short pass was picked off by Detroit's Alphonso Smith, which led to a 33-yard field goal by Jason Hanson, leaving the score much closer than it should have been at intermission, with Minnesota ahead 14-10.
In the second half, it was the Vikings' defense and running game that led the way. The biggest highlight of all came from Adrian Peterson, who recorded the longest run from scrimmage in his career – and tied for the fourth-longest in team history – with an 80-yard run late in the third quarter to put Minnesota ahead 24-10.
"That's a run for the ages right there, it's the longest run in the building," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Not bad for a dinosaur of a building, right? You're looking for explosive plays. It's hard to grind and grind and nickel-dime. Obviously, when you have an explosion like that, that's huge and lifts everybody."
And a lift was exactly what Minnesota needed, given how it's started out in the 2010 season.
"It's good to get that first win," Childress said. "Obviously, we have tons to clean up and we'll get those tons of things cleaned up. But, we're doing some good things offensively running the football, our pass game has to catch up and it will catch up, but hats off to my guys.
"I thought they did a great job, they grinded through it and won one that you knew would be hard-fought against the Detroit Lions in the division. Like I sad, you have to get one (win) before you can get two."
So true, particularly with the fact Minnesota failed to score more than 10 points in either of its first two games, and with increasing criticism centered around Favre's performance – or lack thereof – a win Sunday may have helped salvage the season for the Vikings.
For at least one week, that is.
That Favre continued to struggle, particularly against a down-on-its-luck team like Detroit, doesn't exactly bode well for the remaining 13 games the Vikings have left in the regular season. Still, Childress believes all the wrongs will be righted, particularly with Favre. It's just going to take time for his veteran QB to work through it.
"He's doing okay, he's doing just fine," Childress said of Favre. "It's hard to strap everything on your back and win it right now at this point in time. I think we're still, I won't use the word 'struggling' to see who we are."
Instead, Childress added, he prefers to look at the Vikings as a "yet to be determined product."
But there's no question after watching Sunday's effort that it's also a product that still has a long way to go.
"There definitely was a sense of urgency" coming into Sunday's game, Peterson said. "Starting 0-2 definitely wasn't our plan. Guys had the mentality that it was a home game and we had to come out to get this win. We all had the same mindset as a group collectively. ... This was a good team win, especially one we can improve on."
Favre agreed about the sense of urgency, but added the caveat that one win does not a season make.
"I mean, nothing's changed. It's one win but it sure beats the alternative," Favre said. "That's where we are. We're not near as good as we were last year. And I'm talking about me in the passing game, I'm not talking about everyone else. So we have to either figure out a way of doing it or it's going to be a tough road. I hope we figure that out, but there better be some urgency."
While the Vikings won in their 130th consecutive home sellout, Favre was uncharacteristically booed several times by many of the purple and gold faithful, particularly after his two picks.
Meanwhile, Peterson led the Vikings' offensive effort with 23 carries for 160 yards – the 21st 100-plus yard rushing effort of his NFL career – and two touchdowns, as the Vikings finally managed to score more points in one game than they had in their first two games combined (19 points).
Rounding out the Vikings' scoring was a 24-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Percy Harvin near the end of the first quarter following a fumbled punt return by Detroit's Stefan Logan, a six-yard run by Peterson late in the second quarter and a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell midway through the third quarter.
The TD pass to Harvin was only the second scoring strike for Favre this season.
Detroit's other score came on a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half by Jason Hanson, who missed a 44-yard attempt earlier.
Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill continued to look for his own identity, still leading the Lions in place of the injured Matthew Stafford. Minnesota's defense constantly pressured Hill, who worked almost exclusively from the shotgun, yet was still intercepted twice late in the game when Detroit drove deep into Viking territory and appeared headed for a pair of scores. Hill ended the game completing 29 of 43 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown, plus the two interceptions. He was sacked once.
"When you turn balls over in the red zone, that's self-inflicted," said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. "When you give up 80-yard runs, that's self-inflicted. ... You just need to capitalize when you have chances. When we did we had plays called back with penalties and things like that or ended up with turnovers when we got down in the red zone."
Minnesota now enjoys a bye week while Detroit visits Green Bay next Sunday. The Vikings return to action on Oct. 11 when they visit one of Favre's former teams, the New York Jets, for a Monday Night Football contest, one day after Favre's 41st birthday.