Well, that was an interesting and thoroughly entertaining game. The fact that Greg Lewis, playing in his first game, made a circus catch with two seconds remaining on his first reception in a Vikings uniform pretty much says everything.
Here are some notes and quotes from the postgame locker room:
Naturally, Lewis was a popular guy afterward. Signed after Bobby Wade was released, Lewis was inactive the first two games and played only four snaps Sunday. He was in the game on the final play because Percy Harvin was winded after running deep on the previous play.
“Percy had just made a long catch, and it was a long drive,” he said. “He had done eight plays in a row and I was really just trying to give him a break, give him one play and then go back in and it happened to be a big play.”
Lewis broke down the play and how he ended up in the spot where he made the catch.
“I’m supposed to get in the end zone like I did, but I saw Brett going that way too,” he said. “So, I was like ‘Well, I probably can’t get the ball this far over this way so let me go see what’s going to happen over here’. And I just started running that way toward him and he was looking downfield and threw me the ball.”
Lewis said he wasn’t sure if he got both feet in.
“My main goal was to catch the ball and that’s our job as receivers is to catch the ball and work on dragging our feet (inbounds) in practice,” he said. “They joke about me and my feet going east and west, and it helped today.”
That last drive is why the Vikings went after Favre this offseason. He had an up-and-down performance, but he came through in the clutch. Favre was brutally honest when asked what he was thinking when he went onto the field for the final drive.
“I didn’t say a whole lot; I know what I was thinking, ‘we blew our chances,’” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Yeah, we got one more shot, but just like everyone else in the building, a little too late.’ Now that’s not to say I don’t go out and sling it. That’s just what I did. I was telling the guys, just catch it and try to dart up. If I had enough room, to where I could drill one at the end; I did lay one up a few plays earlier to Sidney and it drifted to the left. I figured after that it was going to be hard to do that because time obviously was against us. They were going to play further back and it just would be harder. I think the play right before I threw one to Bernard (Berrian) in the left flat, just trying to inch up, so I could drill one. Which is still hard to make it work, but I felt it was better than laying one up at the end, but I was just telling the guys, my gut tell us that we are still in it, so just keep playing.”
Favre admitted he had no idea who caught the ball.
“I just saw one of our guys streaking across,” he said. “All I was trying to do was buy some time. I knew what they were going to do defensively. I’m trying to recall – I think I just pumped and eased to the right, slid around. The obvious thing would be to drop back a few steps and throw it as high as you can into the end zone. But, once again, that is why I was trying to get down closer to where you can drill one. (You have) less time to think about it. Really, either way, it’s an all or nothing type of play, but I felt like if you drill it – because they are really just playing in certain zones, just playing your eyes. So I knew I was going to get hit right when I let it go. Once again, I didn’t know who it was that was streaking so I just threw it as hard as I could. I don’t think it was anything that special. The catch was pretty outstanding. I did see the replay.”
Favre said he was sore about 10 times in the postgame interview. He said his right foot, left knee, both shoulders and neck were sore. He took a pounding, but he still managed to run downfield and throw a block on linebacker Patrick Willis on a catch and run by Bernard Berrian.
The Vikings had another breakdown in the kicking game when defensive tackle Ray McDonald burst through the line and blocked Ryan Longwell’s 44-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half. Nate Clements picked up the bouncing ball after the block and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 14-13 halftime lead.
“I think we missed a guy and he got in there pretty good,” Longwell said. “Our time was good and we hit it solid but it hit [McDonald] pretty low in his chest, which means he was in there pretty good.”
McDonald split guard Steve Hutchinson and tackle Phil Loadholt on the left side and had a clean path for the block.
“The guard fell down and I have to crack down more,” Loadholt said. “I got to get down there faster than that. I have to make sure that I cover my guys better than that.”
Run defense improves
The Vikings run defense heard some criticism after two subpar performances the first two games, and they responded with a strong effort by holding the 49ers to only 58 yards rushing on 26 carries.
Of course, it didn't hurt that running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 207 yards against Seattle the previous game, re-aggravated an ankle injury on his first carry for four yards and did not return. That left rookie Glen Coffee to carry the load, and he managed only 54 yards rushing on 25 carries.
“We got back to doing what we do,” Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen said. “Maybe it took a couple of call outs, people trying to question our toughness. We went out there and played Vikings ball.”