In the past four years, the Minnesota Vikings drafted, signed or traded for arguably the NFL’s best running back (Adrian Peterson), pass rusher (Jared Allen) and offensive lineman (six-time All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson). Still, it wasn’t enough. But then, Minnesota drafted rookie receiver Percy Harvin and signed Brett Favre.
In the past four years, the Minnesota Vikings drafted, signed or traded for arguably the NFL’s best running back (Adrian Peterson), pass rusher (Jared Allen) and offensive lineman (six-time All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson).
Still, it wasn’t enough. Even after adding star receivers Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice, the Vikings couldn’t win a playoff game.
But then, Minnesota drafted rookie receiver Percy Harvin and signed Brett Favre midway through training camp to replace Tarvaris Jackson. The NFL’s all-time leading passer, in the midst of a career year with a 112.1 passer rating, looks like the final piece of the puzzle for the Vikings (9-1), who have been to four Super Bowls, but never won one.
“I’ve stayed away from final pieces of the puzzle (talk), because I don’t think success is ever final,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said on a teleconference. “I said that about Jared Allen and Bernard Berrian. Every guy we’ve added are nice tools to have in the tool box, but it’s the ultimate team game. You need every one of those guys to win.”
Maybe, but the quarterback is the one who can best tie all those pieces together, and Favre was an immediate perfect fit for his long-time arch rival. Childress said that’s because Favre played in an almost identical West Coast offense during his 16 seasons in Green Bay.
“It’s like being raised in France and speaking French your whole life and then leaving for a couple of years and coming back,” Childress said. “He was able to sign a contract, take a physical, eat lunch and then come out and practice. With the language being the same, it was just a matter of getting to know the pieces that are here.”
Favre eased into those new pieces at first, averaging a modest 6.0 yards per pass in Minnesota’s first three games.
“The dinking and dunking is part of the West Coast offense,” Childress said, “being able to throw it 4 yards instead of running for 4.”
But since then, Favre has averaged 9.2 yards per pass, bringing his average to a career-high 8.0 heading into Sunday’s home game against the Chicago Bears (4-6).
Some of that is because Favre has come to appreciate the many talents around him.
“There comes a trust factor after awhile,” Favre said. “I wouldn’t know if Sidney could go up and get a deep ball unless I threw it to him. When you give guys chances and they make you right, it makes it easier to come back to them, and it also opens up the field more and backs people off.”
When people back off, Favre has found that Harvin, Peterson and third-down back Chester Taylor, a former 1,000-yard rusher, can turn the simplest plays into big gains with a little room.
“Using guys like that, it doesn’t have to be down-the-field throws,” Favre said. “It can be dink-and-dunk stuff underneath. This guy catches a touchdown, that guy catches a touchdown, we’ve got different dimensions. Bernard’s speed, Sidney’s height, Percy’s quickness, Chester’s ability to offer you a run-and-pass dimension.
“And the biggest thing is the offensive line. They’ve kept me clean. Heck, I’m 40 years old. I don’t move around like I used to. It sure helps when they are giving me a lot of time to throw.”
Everything helps. The Vikings seem to have all they need to make a Super Bowl run, including — finally — a quarterback.
Even their opponents see that.
“You’ve got a good defense, the best running back in the league, a (darn) good quarterback and you’ve got receivers who can make plays,” Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. “You can stop the run and you can rush the passer. If you can name all that stuff off when you start the season, yeah, you’ve got a pretty good shot.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org. playerTitle = " "; playerFParam = "ILROR"; playerCategory = "By Section/Sports"; playerAuto = "false"; directPID = "1125s_Wilner"; directOnly = "false"; playerPID = "PSlvHKIjOdolYsUhSjbpf7ROOkJP5EYR";