Brett Favre's(notes) return to the Meadowlands was a resounding flop. He was clearly undone by the NFL's investigation of the lewd text messages he's accused of having sent to a former New York Jets employee, not to mention a sore throwing elbow. And that whole Return of 84 thing? Randy Moss(notes) was but a whisper, having been completely neutralized by Antonio Cromartie(notes).
On one of the most hyped Monday nights in recent memory, the Minnesota Vikings had nothing.
And then, with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter, Favre dropped back, delivered a pass more perfect than a Hawaii sunset and changed everything – everything – about a game, a team and a still flickering dream.
Favre and the Vikings didn't finish the job Monday, falling short by a 29-20 score after the Jets' Dwight Lowery(notes) ended a potential last-minute comeback drive with an interception for touchdown. Yet even though they are 1-3 and 2½ games behind the Chicago Bears in the NFC North, the Vikes have life, because they have Favre – a man impervious to age, pain, scandal, rust or, most of all, inertia.
When Favre floated that over-the-shoulder beauty to Moss down the right sideline – which the receiver caught after crossing the end line with Cromartie as close to him as legally possible – a light went on in the dormant purple-and-gold universe, and suddenly the quest to take that last, final step through the Super Bowl threshold was very much alive.
As Favre jubilantly raced toward the end zone to bear-hug Moss and celebrate the 500th touchdown pass of his career, a thick layer of stress and negativity evaporated, and it was no longer about what was wrong with the team that last year came within a few blades of turf of going into New Orleans and winning the NFC championship game.
Now it was Favre, for the love of the game and within the us-against-the-world cocoon of devoted teammates, running around like no 41-year-old man should have a right to and making plays that no one else can, or ever could:
• Putting a sick spin move on Vernon (The Ghost) Gholston to buy time on a two-point conversion attempt.
• Delivering another resplendent TD pass to Harvin, then getting the ball back down two points with just under two minutes remaining and spines tingling all over the football-watching world, with a gleam in his eyes that said, "This is why I'm here."
No, Favre didn't pull off the fantastic finish. Realistically, he started too late, and he left himself too little margin for error.
However, after the way he opened up the stormy New Jersey skies Monday night, don't bury him or these Vikings until they're mathematically eliminated. I'm guessing they flew home a rejuvenated, hopeful crew of believers, Moss included, and that beginning Sunday in the Metrodome against the Dallas Cowboys they'll do everything they can to avoid waiting until late in the third quarter to put opposing defenses on blast.
Even if those 17 minutes of magic were the last we'll ever get from Favre, I'll be grateful, for they were that good. But I really, really get the feeling that he's pretty far from done.
IF I SLIPPED JON GRUDEN SOME TRUTH SERUM …
After a third-down pass by Favre bounced at Harvin's feet midway through the second quarter, Gruden told viewers, "Brett's clearly out of rhythm. You have to wonder if Brett is healthy. You know, there's been rumors about the elbow, the tendonitis …" The truth-serum version: You know, there's been rumors about Brett's groin, too, because someone at home might have given him a few sharp kicks there lately, if you know what I mean. So yeah, he's clearly out of [expletive] rhythm. How could he possibly be in rhythm? If I were his coach, the first thing I'd do is take away his [expletive] phone. Are you kidding me?
TUESDAY MORNING HAIKU
Forty years from now
Regaling his grandchildren
"Who is Dwight Lowery?"
ONE E FOR FREE
Dude, YOU are a Super freak! Freaking awesome lyrics! Seriously, I don't understand this trade! I suppose Bill Belichick has his reasons (give him the benefit of the doubt; 3 SBs and all), but giving away such a deep threat for what, a third-round pick?? I don't get it, I really don't.
I understand your lack of understanding – it's true that on paper, this was a crazy move. The Patriots absolutely have a chance to compete for a title this season, and a reported third-round pick in 2011 won't help them do that, at all. Yet as good as Moss is, and as driven as he can be (and I believe he'll be driven in his second stint with the Vikings, at least in the beginning), the guy is not helping the ballclub when he becomes that other guy – you know, the one who was the quintessential dog during his two-year stint with the Raiders. As long as Moss feels valued, and appropriately compensated, and is playing for a winner, and is completely healthy, and gets the ball thrown his way early and often, he's a joy to have around. Anything short of that, and he has nearly unrivaled pain-in-the-ass potential. I believe his very smart coach – and his equally smart quarterback – were intent on easing the pain, especially with the exciting influx of two rookie tight ends (Aaron Hernandez(notes) and Rob Gronkowski(notes)) providing a blueprint for transforming the Patriots' attack. I'm not sure it will work, and as I said I expect Moss to start out with a bang in Minnesota. But I understand.