Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
CLEVELAND -- Uh-oh.
Let’s state at the outset that a 13-10 halftime deficit is far from insurmountable. The first half of the first game of the year is hardly a fair sample for drawing conclusions. But Minnesota’s performance here against Cleveland, at least thus far, leaves a lot to be desired for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Let’s enumerate a few of them:
Quarterback Brett Favre has completed 8 of 12 passes, but for only 57 yards. Only two of the completions have been to a receiver, and none have traveled in the air more than 9 yards. In short, the Vikings haven’t been looking downfield at all. They have only 90 total yards and five first downs.
Favre has been under significant pressure and was sacked twice. He also has been hit twice by blitzers who were not touched. One of the missed blocking assignments seemed to be the fault of tailback Adrian Peterson, who took quite a verbal tongue-lashing from running backs coach Eric Bieniemy afterward. Whether it was coincidence or not, Peterson left the field with two minutes to go in the first half. No injury has been announced.
We’ve discussed this over on the Cover it Live module, but I haven’t really seen many wrinkles in this offense despite the bevy of skill players it has. The only mild change from recent years has been two plays with receiver Percy Harvin in the backfield. He ran 11 yards on one of the plays. On the second, Favre faked to him and threw an 18-yard pass to Peterson.
The Vikings’ biggest play of the first half was Darius Reynaud’s 36-yard punt return. It set up the Vikings on the Browns’ 23-yard line. Eventually, Peterson scored from a yard out.
It’s clear the Vikings didn’t want any part of Cleveland kick returner Josh Cribbs. They popped up the opening kickoff to keep it away from him, and probably should have continued that strategy. Cribbs’ 67-yard punt return for a touchdown is the difference in the game right now.