QUOTE: “Success would be the best revenge.” -- Lost Prophets quote
Do you remember the fifth season of “The Sopranos,” when Tony was talking to Dr. Melfi and mangled the famous revenge line? He said, “Revenge is like serving cold cuts,” but he meant to say, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Monday night in the Metrodome, Brett Favre was anything but cold – although he did serve a little revenge and, at the same time, became the first player to beat all 32 NFL teams in his career.
Favre proved to me that he still has the complete game to make it all work -- despite his age, despite his lack of preparation for the season and despite his first two games in which he looked to check the ball down. Monday night, his arm was live, his accuracy was pinpoint and his will to win was back to 1994 form. He did what he had to do when the Vikings couldn’t run the ball; he carried the team. As I wrote two weeks ago, never think a running game is going to carry a team deep into the playoffs, and Favre proved last night his game is still strong and that the passing game is how teams score points in the NFL. This kind of play wasn’t there in the first two games, but he showed he can reach back and rekindle that magic — which he’ll have to keep doing for the Vikings to be a Super Bowl team.
Running back Adrian Peterson was limited to just 55 yards, but Favre carried the team on his back with his ability to make all the throws, especially on critical third downs. He converted 57 percent of the Vikings’ third downs chances, and 14 of his completions went for first downs. He also delivered in the red zone, converting 3 of 3, which is always a secret ingredient to winning. What was most impressive was that four of the first six times the Vikings had the ball, Favre produced touchdowns.
The torch was passed last night. The Vikings are now capable of being an effective passing team. Favre threw the ball down the field, averaging more than eighth yards per pass attempt — which is exactly what a championship team must do. For the Vikings to beat the good teams, this level of performance from Mr. Favre is what it will take. He has developed a nice chemistry with his new receivers, and the play calling of the Vikings is more diverse. It was obvious they’re comfortable putting the ball in Favre’s hand — something they weren’t comfortable doing with former starter Tarvaris Jackson.
For the Packers, their Achilles’ heel showed clearly in Minnesota as their offensive line was not able to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers the time he needed to make throws. The power of the Vikings’ front was too much for the Packers offensive line in every facet. The Packers’ linemen are built to move sideways in the zone scheme, so when they’re pushed back, they’re not powerful enough to anchor down. When I was with the Hotel and we would play the Broncos, their line was similar in style to the Packers – they were effective moving laterally running their boots and nakeds. However, when they got behind in the game and had to drop back and pass protect, their deficiencies in physical power were exposed.
Now, before Packers fans overreact, the Metrodome is a tough place to play, and the crowd noise really places a burden on the offensive line. Yet the reality for Packers fans is that their line is a weak link and makes winning on the road -- especially in loud stadiums -- very difficult. Can they fix this problem now? The only way they can correct it is to make the players they have on the roster play at a higher level. There are no players walking down the street who can help them, so they must work to repair their problems in practice. Maybe overreacting is in order for Packer faithful.
Another concern for the Cheesehead nation might the play of their team’s defense and its inability to apply pressure. Favre had been sacked nine times in three games, but last night he had time to make his throws and was never really rushed into making a poor decision. The sole reason for bringing in defensive coordinator Dom Capers to convert the Packers defense to the 3-4 was to apply pressure on the passer. We didn’t see this pressure -- especially from Aaron Kampman, who was matched up on rookie Phil Loadholt at right tackle. My thinking was that Kampman was going to have a huge game, but he was in coverage as often as he was coming forward and really only got one good quick hit on Mr. Favre.
In the last 10 games at the Metrodome before the arrival of Capers, the Packers defense had allowed an average of 26 points per game, so nothing has changed. They must keep working on finding ways to get the pressure they need to disrupt the passing game. And the reality is that they’re only in Week 4 of the season, so this pressure can come along. They have too many talented players in their front seven to not be able generate pressure.
Finally, does this win exact revenge for Favre against his former team? I really doubt it. I’m sure it was very sweet for the entire Favre family, but revenge won’t come until the Vikings win the Super Bowl. Game four of the NFL season is too early to feel revenge has been served, but for certain it tasted awfully good.
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