HOUSTON - Before the Vikings faced Houston, we learned Brett Favre had revealed to ESPN that he might have a cracked rib. ESPN's Adam Schefter immediately reported that Favre was suffering from a "rib schism."

During the game, the Vikings had Percy Harvin take the snap with Favre splitting wide left. Schefter noted that no Vikings went left with him, and broke the news that the Vikings will term this their "Schism Formation."

Being named Favre means every utterance and rumor regarding him will lead "SportsCenter." Being named Favre also provides insulation from criticism as he learns the Vikings offense, because every misstep can be excused as part of his acclimation.

Until late in the first half Monday night, Favre needed the insulation more than an ice fishing house on Lake Minnetonka in February. At that point, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels had performed better than Favre had this preseason.

Just when you were tempted to hand him a walker and a bowl of bran, though, the tenderized old quarterback who skipped training camp began to tease as only he can.

Not until the Vikings took the ball on the 27 with 3 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the first half did Favre hint he might be worth the gas Brad Childress burned picking him up from the airport two weeks ago.

"Before that, we were saying, 'Let's not go out like this,'" tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "You could see him get a lot more comfortable, though. He was on a roll. The whole offense was on a roll. He's a vet, and he showed why we brought him here."

Early in that drive, Favre threw an awful, wobbling pass deep down the right sideline to Jaymar Johnson, and he was lucky it wasn't intercepted. At that point, Favre was 5-for-9 for 42 yards. He had looked indecisive on a few throws and afraid to get hit on a few others.

Then Favre delved into the archives to produce the kind of drive that used to haunt Viking fans. He completed his last six passes of the first half -- although two were wiped out by penalties. Facing third-and-3 from the Texans 28 with 37 seconds remaining in the half, he spotted a corner blitz and quickly dumped a pass to Chester Taylor, who needed to break only one tackle to score.

Favre ran down the field celebrating -- somewhere, John Madden was saying, "Brett Favre just loves football" -- and we had our first indication since he stopped throwing to Oak Grove High players that he could make a difference this season.

"Being here 12, 13 days, and having that type of test, I thought it was a good thing," Favre said.

The touchdown didn't require a difficult throw, just the right throw at the right time following the kind of split-second decision that often wins or loses games in the NFL.

Of course, if Jackson or Rosenfels had thrown that pass, Taylor would have received all the credit.

Favre looked lost in his first game, and he looked a little less lost but just as unproductive in his second -- until that last drive of the first half.

Starting with that drive, and counting completions wiped out by penalties, Favre completed 12 consecutive short passes. He finished 13-of-18 for 142 yards and no interceptions.

He even threw an illegal block on his last drive -- an illegal crackback out of the Wildcat formation that injured a veteran safety (Eugene Wilson) in a preseason game.

It was a cheap play. Favre said he didn't intend to hurt Wilson, but felt he had to block for his teammate.

Whether you believe Favre has cracked ribs or shouldn't have thrown the cheap crackback block; whether you believe he's rounding into shape or ready for assisted living, let's face it: He's Brett Favre, and he has seized our undivided attention.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • jsouhan@startribune.com