Thank God for Brett Favre.
Brad Childress must repeat those words to himself every night.
Thank God for Brett Favre.
Were it not for the circus atmosphere that surrounds everything Brett Favre does on the football field – never mind the off-field revelations and overexposure – there would be far more attention paid to the extraordinary ineptitude of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
Forget the second-half heroics that came up short. Forget the fumbles and the clinching interception. Forget, even, the disruptions that a Rex Ryan defense can cause.
Let’s look at what a coach can or should be able to control, bearing in mind that the Vikings were coming off a bye week, giving them additional time to prepare.
On the opening play, Randy Moss took a reverse handoff and pulled up to throw an option pass, spotting Brett Favre free down the right sideline. The trick play came off without a hitch, with the minor imperfection that Favre, having taken the snap under center, was an ineligible receiver. Five yard penalty.
On the next play, Jim Kleinsasser was called for a false start.
Now facing first and 20, Minnesota ran Adrian Peterson off right tackle for four yards.
Then right tackle Phil Loadholt was called for a false start.
So much for the extra week of practice.
In the first forty minutes of the game, the Vikings ran just three plays in Jets territory, one of which was nullified by a holding penalty on Kleinsasser that pushed them back past midfield. On the same play, Percy Harvin was flagged for an illegal formation, taking a position on the line even though the tight end on his side was up on the line as well. Jon Gruden on the Monday Night Football telecast called the mistake “inexcusable … that’s something you go over on the first day of camp.”
When do fingers start pointing at the coach?
Five plays later on the same drive – after another false start by Kleinsasser — Favre hit Moss with a 37-yard touchdown pass that dropped perfectly out of the sky into the receiver’s hands.
Thank God for Brett Favre?
But even good moments turned odd for the Vikes on Monday night. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Favre hit Harvin for a touchdown that narrowed the score to 15-13. Favre exulted like a teenager, bouncing with his guys to the sidelines. Childress seemed to want to go for two, but put the point-after team on the field, then called a timeout to ponder the decision and get the right personnel in the game. The Vikings wound up throwing on the conversion attempt, which failed, and they now had one fewer timeout in their pockets as the fourth quarter played out.
To that point in the game, Favre had managed two lightning strikes that overcame a long string of ineffectiveness. Over the course of the remaining thirteen minutes, the Vikings ran Adrian Peterson three times for thirteen yards, and sent Favre back to pass nineteen times. The nineteen plays resulted in five completions (including another touchdown to Harvin that cut the Jets lead to 22-20), eleven incompletions, two sacks (Favre fumbled on one of them but the Vikings recovered), and the pick-six by Dwight Lowery that effectively ended the game with a minute and a half to go.
Favre’s three second-half TDs gave everyone something to talk about, as did his poor performance down the stretch. The late interception reminded most observers of his playoff defeats to New Orleans and the New York Giants in 2010 and 2008.
And no one spoke a word about the penalties, the conversion confusion, the abandonment of the running game, the curious and befuddled decision-making on the sidelines.
The 1-3 Vikings face a must-win game on Sunday at home against 1-3 Dallas, for whom the game is equally do-or-die. With all the talent that will be on the field for that one, you would normally think that the coach who falls to 1-4 would be lucky to keep his job for another week.
Wade Phillips is probably concerned about that. Brad Childress probably isn’t.
Childress knows the answer to the question, Have Brett Favre and his alleged indiscretions been a distraction?
The indiscretions, no.
Favre, yes. Thank God.