Commentary

No Favre meltdown on the horizon

Despite his troubles versus the Cardinals (2 INTs), No. 4's learning from his 2008 slide

Originally Published: December 7, 2009
By Jeffri Chadiha | ESPN.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Give Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre credit for this much in the wake of the 30-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday: He wasn't making any excuses.

He dismissed the notion the Vikings didn't play with enough urgency.

He also wasn't accepting the explanation offered by his head coach Brad Childress, that Minnesota's tempo failed to match Arizona's.

All Favre was focused on was finding a way to improve his game. And that's the kind of attitude that should make his team more dangerous down the stretch.

What Favre realized was that he slipped back into a familiar mode of quarterbacking, one that led to predictable results.

He forced too many passes into coverage and he paid a heavy price for those choices. Favre threw two costly interceptions that helped Arizona pull into a comfortable lead in the second half. In fact, he would have finished with three picks if Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson had managed to hold onto a Favre pass intended for tight end Visanthe Shiancoe late in the second quarter.

This was easily the worst game Favre had played in a season in which he's been outstanding every week. That's not to say he's the only reason for the loss, but Favre wasn't helping the cause much, either.

"We were in a position where we had to throw the ball and I let the defense get to me," said Favre, who still completed 30 of 45 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns before a mostly hostile University of Phoenix Stadium crowd.

"There were times when they were rushing three [linemen] and dropping eight [defenders into pass coverage]. The better decision would've been for me not to throw it in there because you don't want to give an offense like [Arizona's] another advantage. But I made some decisions that I haven't made in some time."

Favre was referring to his penchant for forcing the issue when it's not necessary. It's that cavalier nature which helped him become a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame gunslinger, but it's also been his most glaring weakness at times.

There have been countless days in his 19-year career when he's left people scratching their heads at his decisions. His success in Minnesota so far -- his 24 touchdown passes and three interceptions entering the game helped make him the NFL's top-rated passer this season -- had plenty to do with his controlling the more aggressive side of himself.

That's why it's good to hear Favre sounding so down about his performance. It means he understands that reverting to that type of quarterback could spell only trouble for a 10-2 team that has a stranglehold on the NFC North and serious championship potential.

When Favre came out of retirement once again this summer, he sensed the opportunity to be the missing link for the Vikings. The last thing he wants to do is have this season end up like last year went for him with the New York Jets.

You remember that, right? Favre was the toast of New York for half of 2008, as he led the Jets to an 8-3 record. Some optimists were even talking about a run at a Super Bowl until Favre fell back to earth with a thud that reverberated around the league.

Not only did the Jets fail to make the postseason but Favre threw nine interceptions in the final five games while plagued by a torn right biceps tendon. By the end of the year, even his own teammates were criticizing his struggles.

So far it doesn't seem as if health is going to be a major issue for Favre this season, even though he's now 40.

When asked how his body felt after the Cardinals had abused him for most of Sunday's game, he said, "Physically, I'm more concerned about the rest of the guys than me."

Favre was referring to the broken leg that ended the season of linebacker E.J. Henderson and the less serious injuries that offensive tackles Phil Loadholt and Bryant McKinnie played through in the game. What Favre realizes is that you don't want to hit the stretch run of the season with key players sidelined.

Favre also understands this offense can't afford to be dominated like it was against Arizona. Though he couldn't offer many specifics on what the defense did to him, the Cardinals felt they executed a perfect game plan versus Favre.

"We did a great job on the back end in coverage and just staying disciplined," linebacker Karlos Dansby said of the 8-4, NFC West-leading Cardinals.

"In the route combinations, we did a great job of scouting it out and making sure were in the right place at the right time. And we just let our defensive line go to work. They did a great job up front of mixing the games up and getting to the quarterback."

The fact that Minnesota's run game was nonexistent -- Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson gained only 19 yards on 13 carries -- should be a more disturbing issue for Favre. Peterson has averaged less than 4 yards a carry in each of his past three games. His disappearing act Sunday was easily explainable.

Part of it had to do with the Cardinals' dominance in the trenches. The other part had to do with Minnesota's facing a 21-10 deficit at the half.

Regardless, the Vikings need to get Peterson going again because it makes life easier on Favre. It also makes it less likely that Favre will start pressing to keep the Vikings rolling.

He deserves credit for keeping himself in check thus far. But you also never know when he might revert to bad habits.

At this stage, the safe bet is that Favre will rebound from this.

As he said: "The running game needs to be better but we also need to be able to throw the ball better."

That's his way of saying that whatever issues show up in this week's film study before a Week 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals will be dealt with promptly. And it also means something else: Anybody expecting another Favre meltdown should be prepared to be seriously disappointed.

Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.