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Mike, why all the passing against Pittsburgh?
-- Jerry, Colorado Springs, CO
I am certain the game plan heading into Pittsburgh was not to throw 51 passes. The Vikings rank 2nd in the NFL in rushing since Brad Childress took over as head coach, so it’s clear this coaching staff prefers to move the ball on the ground and balance it out with an efficient passing game.
But Jerry is right in that Favre threw 51 times and that is too many for this team. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell even said during his press conference this week that he wishes Adrian had run the ball 51 times last week instead of Favre throwing it that often.
I think part of the reason the Vikings ended up throwing so much was because of Pittsburgh’s commitment and success in playing against the run, especially early in the game. Here is a list of the yards gained/lost on the Vikings first 8 runs: -1, 4, 3, -3, 0, 15, 3, -2. That 15-yard run is really the only success the Vikings had running the ball through the first quarter and half last Sunday. So the Vikings offensive staff had to make some adjustments on the fly…it doesn’t make sense to just keep running straight into a brick wall over and over again. At some point, you have to try something different to become productive and try to open up the run game.
The honest answer is that I don’t know. We’ll get the final injury report later today and that will tell us A) whether Winfield was able to practice today and B) what his chances are of playing on Sunday.
In a way, it makes sense to sit Winfield this week, even though his presence would be significant against QB Aaron Rodgers and this explosive passing offense. Sitting him this week gives him an extra week to heal because the Vikings have a bye next week. If that happens, it will be nearly a month since Winfield had played in a game when the Vikings come out of their bye and host the Detroit Lions on November 15. This should have Winfield at 100% going forward and reduce his risk of re-aggravating the injury.
With that said, and as Childress has pointed out several times, Winfield is a tough player who wants to play and has a history of recovering quickly and playing through injuries. As badly as the fans or coaching staff might want Winfield out on the field, I can guarantee you that Winfield wants it more.
Ultimately, nothing will surprise me this week as it relates to Winfield’s status. He hasn’t practiced all week and him practicing today would represent a significant step in his recovery. If he practices today, he’ll likely be listed as questionable on the injury report. If he doesn’t, look for him to be doubtful again.
I am concerned that Brett Favre will be too emotional and try to do too much on Sunday when he returns to Green Bay. The crowd will be booing him and he’ll want to show the team and the fans that he can still play. Favre is great when he plays within the offense, but when he tries to do too much that’s when I fear the games with 4 interceptions.
-- Crystal J., Lakeville, MN
I understand your concern, Crystal, and I’ll admit the same thoughts crept into my head last Sunday evening as we flew back from Pittsburgh to Minnesota. But I gave it more thought, came back to the office and looked at Favre’s stats in some key games this season. What I found quickly squashed any thoughts that Favre will have an out of body experience. I blogged about this earlier in the week, but I’ll recap the reasoning behind my confidence that Favre will play under control on Sunday and not get into the mode of trying to prove anything against his former team.
In his first ever game as a Viking - a preseason contest against Kansas City – Favre went 1 of 4 and had no mistakes.
In the season opener at Cleveland, Favre was 14 of 21 for 110 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs.
In the home opener against San Francisco, Favre was 24 of 46 for 301 yards, 2 TDs and an INT on a tipped pass that wasn’t his fault.
Most importantly, in his 1st game against Green Bay back in Week 4, Favre had perhaps his best outing, completing 24 of 31 passes for 271 yards and 3 TDs.
The point is, all of the games I listed above were “big spots” for Favre. They were significant games for one reason or the other, and not once did he come close to playing out of control or not within the offense. Based on the 4 performances listed above, I don’t think there’s reason to think Favre will be any different this weekend in Lambeau.