From the Catbird Seat... Needed: Improvement
Viking fans were expecting to see improvement from their new quarterback on Monday night in Houston. I think they saw some, but if anyone is ready to proclaim mid-season form for Brett Favre, they've got another guess coming.
You can't judge his first drive, simply because Adrian Peterson is a freak of nature, but after that Favre showed real signs of why he's here.
He had some real zip on the best play call of the night - a 12-yard third-down completion to Visanthe Shiancoe on third-and-eight in the first quarter - and showed the great poise you'd expect of a 19-year veteran in doing it. To see the Minnesota Vikings run a pass pattern past the sticks on third down and longer than five yards is very refreshing to see. As any fan will tell you, it doesn't happen often.
There was more to make fans smile. Seeing Percy Harvin running the single-wing - what is now fashionable to call the "Wildcat" in this league - marked the most imaginative play call of the Brad Childress regime by default.
Though, it's fair to speculate on what Favre thinks about his new surroundings. Viking fans can celebrate the thought of finally getting the kind of officials' call Favre got in Green Bay for years, in the form of a dubious second quarter roughing penalty, only to see the stripes even it up on the very next play with an offensive pass interference call on Bobby Wade that ESPN didn't even bother to replay.
One suspects it didn't bother him too much. It's worth at least a portion of the salary the Vikings are paying him for fans to see - at last - a Vikings quarterback that can competently run a two-minute drill despite the penalty-prone players around him.
OK, now to the alarming. If you're paying $12 million a year to a 39-year old quarterback, it would be a great idea if your offensive line didn't get him hammered into the turf. Houston's pass rush was disturbingly good.
Then there's Harvin. For every good play he made including a spinning move late in the first half to gain Favre 10 extra yards, there was a silly illegal shift penalty or not running a pattern to the sticks in the first quarter to kill a drive. His talent is undeniable, but he needs a full set of NFL instincts. When he gets them he could be truly frightening.
Then, surprisingly, there's the first-team defense, which started strong but didn't finish that way. Theoretically a strong point, it was physically manhandled on Houston's first-half touchdown drive and disappointingly allowed points within the last 20 seconds of the first half after Favre's touchdown drive.
I was very glad to see Favre come out for the second half. He had thrown a total of 17 passes prior to that time in the uniform, so to see him get the snaps in the second half was necessary. I wasn't so happy to see him blocking for Harvin in the Wildcat formation, but I guess you can't have everything.
All that said, what we've seen of Favre shows me one thing - professional competence. In that regard, he's what the doctor ordered for the offense and most especially for Brad Childress. In a season where the coach's job is on the line, a real game manager is what the team needs. He hasn't tried to be a gunslinger yet, and hopefully he won't really have to.
His numbers were certainly acceptable - 13 of 18 for 142 yards and his first touchdown pass in purple, while completing his last four attempts on the touchdown drive in the first half - so yes, there was enough improvement for me. If he doesn't play against Dallas this weekend, as has been reported, it will have to be enough.
One wonders whether Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels will wear the baseball cap as the third quarterback during the coming season - given Childress' investment in Jackson, my personal guess is that Rosenfels will draw the short straw - but that's about the only drama left before the first ball is thrown in anger.
That too is a good thing. The media hype surrounding the Minnesota Vikings, due in no small measure to their celebrity quarterback, is as high as it has been since the days of Fran Tarkenton. Let's hope the drama will come to an end, since I'm ready for some football.