Vikings' Favre hadn't seen many games like this
Monday, October 26, 2009
By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More than once in his post-game remarks, Brett Favre lifted his hands in body language that said he didn't have an answer. But he wasn't the only person from Minnesota in a purple haze.

Just when Favre was on the verge of rallying his heretofore unbeaten Vikings, two Steelers linebackers ruined everything with fourth-quarter returns. After Brett Keisel caused Favre to fumble, LaMarr Woodley scooped up the loose ball and turned it into a 77-yard touchdown, and Keyaron Fox picked off a deflected screen pass and went 82 yards the other way for the clinching score.

"It's unfortunate both of those plays happened," said Favre, walking gingerly after a long afternoon. "Give those guys credit. They're the defending Super Bowl champions. That's what they do. We had those turnovers, [and] especially when you return them for touchdowns, they made a huge difference."

Favre hasn't seen many games like this one in his 19 seasons, and Vikings coach Brad Childress had his own difficulties in coming up with answers.

"They're kind of fluke deals," Childress said quietly. "It was a game of swings. Hats off to Pittsburgh. They found a way to make plays."

It didn't exactly turn out to be the shootout between NFL gunslingers that the hype machine had hoped for. It may have been if Favre and Ben Roethlisberger would have been as magnificent as the autumn afternoon.

Still, the stage was set. Among those in the largest crowd ever to see the Steelers play at Heinz Field -- larger than the throng that squeezed into the place to witness the AFC championship game against the Ravens in January -- was the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney.

Much of the attention was focused on Favre, who at the age of 40 extended his NFL record for most consecutive games started. It's still hard to get used to seeing an icon like him in purple, just like it was strange to see Johnny Unitas wearing San Diego lightning bolts or Joe Namath in the blue and gold of the Los Angeles Rams or Joe Montana in the red of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The first three times Minnesota had the ball, Favre had only one first down and was sacked twice, which was one way for James Farrior and James Harrison to introduce themselves.

But he completed five of nine passes for 60 yards on Minnesota's lone touchdown drive. The Vikings' other touchdown came on Percy Harvin's 88-yard kickoff return during that wild fourth quarter. For the game, Favre completed 34 of 51 throws for 334 yards and was sacked four times. Like Roethlisberger, he had a touchdown pass called back because of a penalty. And the Vikings easily won the time of possession, holding the ball almost 13 minutes longer than the Steelers.

It really came down to the return game late in the game.

Three plays after Favre's touchdown pass was nullified, he was sacked and coughed up the ball following a hit by Keisel.

One prescient fan in the crowd of 65,597 held up a sign that said "Our Brett Is Better Than Your Brett."

"What he brings to the table is still amazing to me -- how he's still one of the best in the league," Keisel said of Favre. "He's a winner. He's always been a winner. And it was a lot of fun to compete against him."

But the play was just beginning. Woodley picked it up and turned it into a touchdown for a 10-point lead.

Just like that, Harvin returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to trim the lead to three points. And after getting the ball back with just over three minutes remaining, Favre had the Vikings on the move, taking them from their own 26 to the Steelers' 26 in six plays.

He tossed a pass to Chester Taylor, which bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Fox.

"It was a screen. We had it blocked," Favre said. "I don't know if we could've done anything different. If I had it to do over, I'd do the same thing."

Except for seeing Fox running the other way to seal the deal.

The Steelers defense accepted the challenge of matching up against Favre. The last thing they wanted was to get involved in a shootout.

"We scored more touchdowns than their offense," said safety Ryan Clark. "If it was a scrimmage, we would have won."

Down 27-17, Favre mounted one last try. He completed three passes for 44 yards, and then on the last play of the game, he was wrapped up by James Harrison. Imagine that -- a Viking being sacked to end the battle.

"There's a lot of 'what ifs' in a game like this. Pittsburgh can probably say the same thing," said Favre, the gray in his stubble matching the gray of the stocking cap he wore to the post-game interview.

"We had our chances. I love the way we competed. It really comes down to beating them at what they do.

"They were as good as I thought they would be. They give you a lot of looks. It's loud. A tough environment. They thrive on that. You just have to make one more play than they do. We didn't make enough plays."

Asked how he felt in the aftermath, Favre managed a hint of a smile.

"After a game like this, you always feel better if you win," he said.

Robert Dvorchak can be reached at

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