By Judd and Chip

NEW ORLEANS -- Brett Favre's performance in the Vikings' 14-9 loss Thursday night at the Superdome shouldn't have come as a surprise. In fact, it was very similar to how he opened last year.

Favre completed 15 of 27 passes for 171 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a 71.1 passer rating against the Saints. A year ago, he completed 14 of 21 passes for 110 yards with a touchdown and a 95.3 rating.

The difference? In 2009, the Vikings opened with a 34-20 victory against a terrible Cleveland Browns team. Thursday night, they opened against the defending Super Bowl champs. In both instances, of course, you can look at the fact Favre did not take part in training camp and his limited work with the offense meant he is still finding his timing.

Favre said he didn't feel rusty but he sure looked it at times and aside from tight end Visanthe Shiancoe the quarterback did not seem to be on the same page with his receivers. Favre did take plenty of the blame.

"I think the timing was a little bit off," he said. "Without looking at the film, off the top of my head, there were three or four throws that I just missed. I have no excuse other than just missing them. I threw one behind Greg Lewis. I had a couple of reads that I should have made differently. If I do that, I think it is a different ballgame. Overall, I just missed on some throws that I should have made."

Last season, it took until the third game for Favre to really get going. Favre ended the Vikings' victory over San Francisco in Week 3 with that last-second touchdown pass to Lewis in the back of the end zone and everything started to click.

Coach Brad Childress defended Favre's performance Thursday, saying: "There was not a lot of timing throws out there because of how they rushed things. There were not a lot of throws to be made far down the field. ... We need to be a little more patient and we have to be able to run the football. I thought we had a pretty good pulse going into halftime."

So what happened?

The Vikings executed their game plan effectively in the first half: Give the ball to Adrian Peterson and let him pound on the Saints.

Peterson ran hard and determined in the first half and had 57 yards on 13 carries. He had seven carries and one catch on their 16-play drive that took 9 minutes, 25 seconds off the clock. Peterson touched the ball 15 times on the Vikings 32 plays in the first half.

“That was pretty much the game plan -- establish the run game and get ourselves in a rhythm,” Peterson said. “I thought we did a pretty good job in the first half of executing it.”

But the Vikings deviated from their game plan in the second half and Peterson basically became a non-factor. He had only six carries for 30 yards. The Vikings passing game was completely out of sync and the game was still close so it was curious that they were so quick to abandon the running game.

Defense settles down
The Vikings defense looked in store for a long night after the Saints took the ball and scored quickly on their opening possession. But the Vikings defense settled down, made some adjustments and kept the Saints within striking distance.
“You’re never encouraged by a loss,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “But you take the offense that the Saints have and you hold them to 14 points, you have to look at some positive out of that. But we didn’t do enough. I think what we’re all upset about is, our forte is stopping the run and we had opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t do that.”
The Saints ran the ball only three times for nine yards in the first half. But they showed more balance in the second half with Pierre Thomas and finished with 79 yards rushing. “I think they kind of lulled us to sleep that first half airing it out,” middle linebacker E.J. Henderson said. “But they did run the ball when they needed to at the end. So hats off to them and back to the drawing board for the Vikings defense.”
Henderson returns
Henderson was credited with nine tackles, including one tackle for loss, in his first official game since suffering a broken femur in his left leg last December. “It was a big moment for me to be out there,” Henderson said. “But it was always a culmination to sit in this locker room after a win, regardless of how I played. We didn’t accomplish that.”
McKinnie injured
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie left the game in the fourth quarter after dislocating a finger. Right tackle Phil Loadholt moved to McKinnie’s spot and Ryan Cook came in at right tackle. Loadholt, who received a holding penalty on the series, said he got some reps at left tackle in practice this week in case McKinnie got injured.
“It’s a hard adjustment,” Loadholt said. “I’ve played left tackle before, but it’s tough in the middle of the game like that. I was trying to switch my mindset over.”
McKinnie tweeted that he was going to return to the game but the Vikings didn’t get the ball again.
Show of solidarity
The players from both teams walked onto the field just before kickoff and raised one finger in the air. The union reps for every NFL team had a conference call and came up with that idea as show of solidarity as the league faces a possible lockout next spring. “We just wanted to show everybody that we’re unified as a union, as players,” said Vikings All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson, the team’s union rep. “That’s a serious deal.”
A costly challenge
Childress used the Vikings' first timeout of the second half early in the fourth quarter when he had an unsuccessful challenge of a ruling that tight end Jim Kleinsasser had failed to hang onto a Favre pass.  

That cost the Vikings later in the quarter as the Saints were able to hold onto the ball  for the final 5 minute, 32 seconds and Drew Brees began taking a knee with 1:49 remaining because the Vikings could no longer stop the clock.

"I didn't get the replays that you guys got and the super slow-mo," Childress said of the ruling on the Kleinsasser play. "I'd be interested to hear what you guys saw. But Terry [McAulay, the referee] said that he couldn't substantiate it. Jim was pretty adamant about the fact he caught it. And I figured on an opening night with however many cameras they had that you're probably going to get better than just a regional game [for number of cameras]."

Childress also liked the fact that the time it took McAulay to review the play gave the Vikings defense a rest.

A different look

One of the big storylines entering Thursday was how much punishment Favre might take after the Saints blitzed him throughout last season's NFC title game. Only it didn't happen as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams rushed three much of the time and was happy to drop back into coverage."

"The blitz was very, very, very infrequent," Childress said. "Maybe because of some of their injuries they thought about coverage. They also played a bunch of 3-4, they played a bunch of odd front. That was a nice mixer for them and it took a second to get in sync. You're thinking even and they went odd, so it was a nice move by them."

Childress said "by and large" he was happy with the protection Favre received from the offensive line.


-- Childress said that Husain Abdullah has won the Vikings' starting strong safety ahead of Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford. Abdullah started Thursday night but that was thought to be in part because of his coverage abilities.

-- The decision to go with three cornerbacks and not have Cedric Griffin (ACL) active was not a decision that was made Thursday. Childress had left the door open to Griffin playing against the Saints but that seemed like a long shot given the surgery he was coming off of and the fact he hadn't practiced all of training camp. "I just felt like with just a week under his legs, fatigue typically makes those legs a little bit weaker," Childress said. "I just think it's probably a stamina thing that he's going to have to continue to build."

-- Childress wasn't happy after Favre's second quarter interception because he felt Visanthe Shiancoe, the intended receiver was interferend with by linebacker Jonathan Vilma. "I thought the back judge that's supposed to be looking at the third guy in the trips missed the fact that 51 [Vilma] was mauling him and when he didn't maul him [Shiancoe] ran down the middle and caught a touchdown."

-- The Vikings had an interesting rotation with their cornerbacks. Antoine Winfield and Asher Allen started at left and right corner, respectively, but when the Vikings went to nickel, Lito Sheppard played left corner, Allen played right corner and Winfield moved inside. "Antoine has some unique skills and Asher has the ability to kick back outside," Childress said. "That's usually where your activity is, in the slot."



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