Following Sunday's unnecessarily harrowing victory over the visiting Baltimore Ravens, the Minnesota Vikings stand 6-0 and atop the NFC North, the NFC, and the NFL. And more evident than the suddenly suspect play of the Minnesota defense and the inability of Adrian Peterson to put together both scoring and yardage numbers, has been the ability of quarterback Brett Favre to lead the Vikings to victory.
After two games, those fans still bewilderingly calling for Tarvaris Jackson to start, at least had reason to wonder whether all of the drama and the lack of cohesiveness between Favre and his teammates was worth the signing. In those first two games--both against awful competition--Favre put up some fairly pedestrian numbers, accounting for 265 passing yards and three touchdowns. Not bad, but probably something either Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson could have done.
Over the Vikings' last four games, however, the tide has turned noticeably against those questioning the Vikings' acquisition of Favre. In those four games, Favre has amassed 1,082 passing yards and nine touchdown passes. And those numbers likely would be gaudier had there been a need for Favre to stay in the St. Louis game until the end.
Add to the numbers, Favre's persistent ability to step up in the pocket in the face of pressure and his new-found willingness to eat the ball when all options truly are covered, and there is little to dislike about Favre's 2009 performance, except that, at age 40, it is unlikely that there will be too many encores.
With Favre in the lineup this season, the Vikings are undefeated. Without him in the lineup, it is conceivable that the team would be as bad as 2-4, with certain losses to Baltimore, San Francisco, and Green Bay, and possibly even a loss at Detroit, if faced with a similar 10-0 deficit at halftime.
That makes the Vikings a plus 3.5 with Favre or a minus 3.5 with any other quarterback on their roster.
While Favre has begun to thrive, he has done so despite the relative malaise in Adrian Peterson's game. After opening the season at Cleveland with 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns, Peterson has produced just 88 yards per game and four touchdowns over the past five games. Those numbers would be fine for Chester Taylor, but not for Peterson.
Despite his relatively modest performances prior to yesterday's 143-yard showing, Peterson remains number one in the league in rushing and first among running backs in first downs obtained. But the numbers could and ought to be better. And, if they were, the Vikings might be less concerned about the minutes that their defense is on the field and wondering less about how they got into position to have to hold on at the end against Baltimore.
The answer for Peterson appears obvious. He needs more touches and more consistency in those touches.
Against Cleveland, Peterson carried the ball 25 times. Against Detroit, San Francisco, and St. Louis, however, he carried the ball 15, 19, and 15 times, respectively. Yesterday, he carried the ball 22 times and, on the twentieth carry, broke a play for 57 yards. That's the cumulative effect that Peterson has on defenses, an effect that he cannot have if he does not accumulate carries.
But Peterson's numbers take a back seat to the effect that his carry totals portend for the team. In games in which Peterson has rushed 22 or more times, the Vikings have held strong time of possession advantages over their opponents. In two of the three games that Peterson has rushed less than 20 times, the Vikings have had a time of possession disadvantage--an important distinction given the Vikings' current defensive struggles.
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