When Brett Favre made the decision, finally, to return for a 20th NFL season, he made it clear from the start that duplicating last year’s magic with the Minnesota Vikings wasn’t going to be easy.
Then again, he didn’t think it was going to be THIS hard.
Favre was intercepted three times and the Miami Dolphins defense stopped Adrian Peterson on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to preserve a 14-10 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
After throwing two interceptions at the Metrodome all of last season, Favre accounted for four turnovers in the 2010 home opener, with the other a fumble on a sack by Cameron Wake in the end zone that Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi recovered to give Miami a 14-0 lead in the third quarter.
“It’s just hard to repeat those type of numbers and statistics and it’s hard to repeat wins,” Favre said of 2009, when the Vikings went 9-0 at home and he threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions to lead them to the NFC title game.
The offense had trouble clicking at the start of last season too, but games against pushovers Cleveland and Detroit helped the Vikings start 2-0. This year, with openers against the New Orleans Saints and Dolphins, and with star receiver Sidney Rice out with a hip injury and several other key players missing big chunks of time in the preseason with ailments, the Vikings have dug themselves quite a hole with sloppy performances on offense.
“It was more what we didn’t do than what they did, but I give those guys credit,” Favre said.
The 40-year-old Favre had his worst day as a Viking with a 44.3 quarterback rating. Two of his interceptions came at the Miami goal line. One came on a tipped ball and another on what appeared to be miscommunication with Bernard Berrian. But the end result is the same – the Vikings are 0-2, with a game against the Detroit Lions before a daunting post-bye schedule awaits.
“I don’t think any of these guys are panicked,” coach Brad Childress said. “But I do feel like the urgency will definitely pick up.”
This game was every bit the hard-nosed, grind-it-out slugfest it was expected to be. The Vikings offense came into the week out of sync in the passing game and promised to feature Peterson more on the ground, which is where the Dolphins have made their living since Tony Sparano took over as coach.
Peterson rushed for 145 yards for the Vikings, who forced two fumbles of their own, one that set up Peterson’s 1-yard plunge to cut the deficit to 14-7 late in the third quarter.
But Miami’s defense never wavered, holding the Vikings to a field goal in the fourth quarter and then getting the big stop with the Vikings threatening to take the lead late in the game.
On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Vontae Davis, Karlos Dansby and a host of Dolphins burst through the Vikings line and stuffed Peterson just short of the goal line. Favre had one more crack at it when they got the ball back with 1:42 to play, but threw incomplete on fourth down at the Dolphins 27 to end it.
“As long as we believe in ourselves we feel like we have a chance to win a game when we go into it,” Ronnie Brown said. “We’re coached that way each week. I think if we continue to go in and do that then the sky’s the limit.”
The Dolphins (2-0) set a defensive tone by deferring instead of receiving after winning the coin toss. They stopped the Vikings on fourth down at the Miami 26 on the first possession when Randy Starks batted down Favre’s pass at the line.
“It was a great stand on the defensive side of the ball,” Dansby said. “It was totally disrespect, and we showed them today that we can play defense.”
Chad Henne hit Brandon Marshall for a 46-yard pass on the next play, and Ricky Williams and Brown bulled their way into the red zone with four wildcat plays. Henne hit Brian Hartline for the TD and a 7-0 lead, and Miami’s offense was put on ice for the rest of the game.
The Vikings held the Dolphins to 226 yards of offense and had the ball for almost 13 minutes longer than Miami. But just like in the NFC title game loss to New Orleans last year, turnovers were the difference.
Jason Allen had two interceptions and Davis picked one off after Percy Harvin tipped the ball up in the air at the goal line.
“When you play teams of this caliber and you make those kind of plays in those situations, it validates what you’re trying to do,” said Sparano, whose Dolphins are 2-0 for the first time since 2002. “I think our football team is getting better in a lot of areas.”
Henne was 9 for 15 for 114 yards and Marshall had four catches for 71 yards. Brown and Williams combined for 110 yards on 23 carries.
Visanthe Shiancoe had six catches for 86 yards.
“It’s a 14-game season now and we’re sitting at the bottom of it,” Favre said. “What we do with it from here remains to be seen. It won’t be any easier.”
Wake finished with 1½ sacks for Miami. “We felt we had to get in here and announce our presence some point in this game early on,” Sparano said.
The Dolphins are home against the Jets and Patriots before the bye.
Harvin aggravated a right hip injury and said he will have an MRI on Monday. He had five catches for 32 yards.
After the Week 4 bye, the Vikings go to the Jets, host Dallas and are at Green Bay and New England.