Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

After the Minnesota Vikings' 29-20 loss Monday to the New York Jets, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Monday night, I felt strongly that there was little connection between Brett Favre's performance and the allegations that he sent racy text messages and photographs to a former Jets sideline reporter. Along those lines, I don't think his emotional release after a 37-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss was related, either. Here's what Favre said about sprinting some 40 yards into Moss' arms after the catch: "I have to admit, when I threw a touchdown to Randy Moss, I've been thinking about that for about 8 to 10 years, if you didn't know that. I was a little bit excited about it." I think Favre saw the quick-strike potential Moss gives this offense and got fired up. Nothing more to read into than that.

  2. I don't have an exact play count yet, but it was obvious to anyone watching that Moss' arrival sent former starter Bernard Berrian into hibernation. The Vikings spent much of the game in a two-receiver, two tight-end set with Percy Harvin opposite of Moss. Greg Lewis was the third receiver in most of those formations. Berrian, meanwhile, got on the field for a handful of plays and wasn't targeted on any of Favre's 34 passes. Moss said afterward that he was originally scheduled for 20-25 plays, which I would have roundly ripped had that happened. Instead, he was on the field for almost the entire game. But it speaks to the flux of this offense that a player who has been a starter for the past two and a half seasons was banished to near inaction in the span of a couple of weeks. Why Berrian wasn't the No. 3 receiver Monday night is beyond me; it makes you wonder if a message was being sent after Berrian told reporters he was unhappy with his reduced playing time of late. But at this point in the season, the Vikings need their best players on the field. Period.

  3. For those who aren't willing to make the connection between Favre's elbow tendinitis and his limited effectiveness Monday night, consider this: His 41.2 percent completion percentage Monday night tied for the second-lowest in a game of his career. Every quarterback misses throws sometimes. And it's true that Favre drilled some tough passes Monday night as well. But when a completion percentage is so far below a career curve, you have to start looking for other explanations. Asked about it Monday night, Favre said: "This is probably the worst it's felt in four games. I missed some throws in the last drive I think I make in my sleep. Really, the last two drives. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. I missed them. I felt like I should have made them. ... I'm not going to say that tendinitis caused me to miss however many throws. But it doesn't feel as good as it did [two weeks ago]."

And here is one issue I don't get:

How did the Jets expose the normally-stout Vikings run defense for 155 yards? According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jets got 99 of those yards on runs up the middle, a relative gashing of defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. The Vikings had given up 112 rushing yards up the middle in their first three games combined. It appeared the Jets had much of their success with quick-hitting trap-type plays in those situations. And on Shonn Greene's 23-yard touchdown run, fullback John Conner had a nice kick-out block on linebacker E.J. Henderson.