CLEVELAND – There was a soft summer wind coming in from Lake Erie and an even softer Cleveland Browns defense sitting across the line of scrimmage. All perfect conditions for The Brett Favre(notes) Story, Part III.
This time he was in Minnesota Vikings purple, not Green Bay or New York green. Against the hapless Browns, aided by the astounding Adrian Peterson, he delivered as much as was needed to lead the Vikings to an easy 34-20 victory on Sunday.
Favre even gave the highlight shows their video of him "having fun" or "loving the game" or "acting like a kid" (whatever they're going to call it) by first throwing a six-yard touchdown to Percy Harvin(notes) and then tackling him in celebration. He even smacked the ref on the rear.
"I was pretty excited," Favre said.
Vikings fans should temper their emotions because every thing always starts well with Favre. It's the ending that gets dicey.
Brett Favre celebrates with Percy Harvin after making his first touchdown pass as a Viking.
(Matthew Emmons/US Presswire)
The Favre experiment isn't about days like these: easy times and easier opponents. It will be decided late in the season, when that summer breeze is replaced by a winter wind, when the opponent goes from bottom feeder to Super Bowl contender and when the potential of this dangerous Minnesota team needs to be realized.
There's no reason to be displeased with Favre's opener. There's also no reason to be naïve.
He went 14 of 21 for 110 yards and that touchdown. In an NFL where Jake Delhomme(notes) can throw nine interceptions in his last two games, that isn't a bad thing. The dearth of quality quarterbacks is one reason why Vikings coach Brad Childress was forced to gamble the fate of a 10-win playoff team on the slowing legs and weakening arm of a 39-year old serial retiree.
Besides, as long as you have Peterson going for you – he busted 180 yards and three touchdowns Sunday – you don't exactly need a gunslinger behind center. You need someone to hand it off to him and occasionally keep defenses honest.
Sunday Favre was that man.
"It wasn't a 400-yard passing day, but it doesn't have to be," he said.
It was enough. For how long though?
Favre's game was limited to mostly safe choices and check down throws – lots of screens and shuffle passes. He completed just one pass down field and another drew a penalty. Much of his best work was just turning and handing off to No. 28.
"Workmanlike," Childress said after, and maybe that word alone said enough.
"No blips," the coach continued. "Don't make it sound like unspectacular is a bad thing. Make routine plays look routine. We talk about that a lot."
This was a slightly more restrained – and honest – assessment than Favre will receive from his worshipping media crew.
Childress is correct though, workmanlike it was. Left unsaid was the fact Favre was sacked four times Sunday by a defense that doesn't scare anyone.
As you might expect from a guy in his 19th season of professional football and will turn 40 in midseason, Favre has lost some steps. Sunday he wasn't capable of sidestepping a rush or even reacting fast enough to get the ball away.
He wasn't his old rambling, scrambling self for most of last year with the Jets either – he got sacked a stunning 30 times. He looked even slower Sunday. One more year of the aging process was evident.
The Browns blitzed relentlessly and you can be sure that defensive coordinators and players alike will be drooling as they watch the video.
Favre passed for one touchdown and 110 yards against the Lions.
(Matthew Emmons-US Presswire)
"I'll take a sack anytime opposed to giving it to them," Childress noted on the positive side.
True enough he wasn't picked but he also could've avoided some of those losses of yards. The days of him stepping up and running may be over. And there's only so long anyone can survive in the NFL if they just stand there and get hit.
That this was the case in perfect weather against an imperfect opponent is where the concern rests. Next week Favre gets downtrodden Detroit. The start to the season should be fun, an opportunity for timing and familiarity issues to be worked out.
He could be back on the cover of Sports Illustrated by the first week of October when the Vikings host Green Bay in Favre Bowl I.
Where is he physically at season's end though? How's he doing at Chicago or dealing with the Giants' defensive front?
We saw Favre look reborn and play to rave reviews last year with the Jets only to wind up atrocious late – a season killing 1-4 finish that featured nine crippling interceptions. It's how Favre ended up a Viking and his then coach, Eric Mangini, wound up trying to rebuild the Browns; an ironic pairing here.
"Guys come and go, coaches come and go," Favre said. "I've come and gone."
How gone is he? Favre can and will get more familiar with his teammates. He's less likely to regain any speed or elusiveness though. He was the first to admit they "sputtered a little on the passing game," noting that this is a "work in progress." Of course, that's in part because he skipped training camp.
As for the blitzkrieg of blitzes he's sure to see, he could only point to the scoreboard and stat sheet.
"They blitzed a bunch today but I think Adrian Peterson ran for 180 yards," Favre said. "It's a risk reward thing."
It's also a Cleveland thing. You never apologize for victories in the NFL, and Favre and the Vikings shouldn't here. The offense dropped 34 points out there and won by two touchdowns on the road. In one sense, that's all that matters.
Yet with Favre the emotions of the moment often hide the gathering clouds.
Childress knows he has the running game and defensive physicality to accomplish anything. He knows Peterson is an all-timer hitting his prime. He knows the Vikings are a serious team if it can solve its weakness at quarterback. So he risked it all on the old man, who Sunday offered enough when not much was needed.
If Brett Favre can't get out of the way of the rush or throw it down field with authority in the best of times though, what will "workmanlike" look like during the worst?