Just another reminder from Favre
Brett Favre made a play only he can make -- that's why the Vikes got him
A team with Favre in the huddle always has a chance, as the Niners learned
Unsung Greg Lewis made his first catch for his new team one to remember
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is why they wanted him. This is why they went out and got him. For the kind of moment that came on Sunday, and the kind of play that seemingly only he can make. And no, I'm not talking about Greg Lewis in this case.
Today, as the Minnesota Vikings live and breathe at 3-0 and in first place in the NFC North, can anyone say their Brett Favre experiment hasn't been a success so far?
An inch or so separated victory from defeat Sunday in the Metrodome, but Favre and the Vikings were on the right side of that line in their death-defying 27-24 (RECAP | BOX) victory over the stunned San Francisco 49ers. Just a couple weeks shy of his 40th birthday, Favre is here and wearing Vikings horns on his helmet because you still want No. 4 on your side of the field when you need a miracle, and there are only seconds remaining on the clock. You still believe he's the kind of guy who can save the day, even if it takes an impossible-looking 32-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to the unheralded Lewis in the extreme back inch of the end zone with two seconds remaining.
"I was thinking, 'Yeah, we got one more shot', but just like everybody else in the building was thinking, it's probably a little too late,'' said Favre, moments after truly stepping into Vikings lore for the first time with perhaps the most improbable of his career's 42 game-winning fourth-quarter comebacks. "Now, that's not to say I don't go out and sling it. And that's just what I did.''
That's what he did, all right. The old gunslinger was back on this day, and Favre's dramatics gave us all one more reminder of what can happen when he slings one with the game on the line. Bedlam. Absolute bedlam. The kind of a happiness that rarely descends on 63,398 people all at the same time.
"This one was pretty special,'' Favre said. "It ranks pretty special. I didn't say a whole lot [at the beginning of the final drive]. I know what I was thinking: 'We blew our chances.' ''
But if there's anything we've learned over the years, it's that a team with Favre in the huddle always has a chance. Even if it takes a last-second touchdown catch from a player like Lewis, who had never before caught a ball in a Vikings uniform, and whose only play in the entire second half was his game-winner. Isn't that just the kind of stuff that seems to happen when Favre is around?
"I guess it was my lucky day,'' said Lewis, the veteran receiver who joined the Vikings late in the preseason, after New England cut him, and was inactive in each of Minnesota's first two games. "I was just trying to give [rookie receiver Percy Harvin] a break, give him one play, and then have him go back in. And it happened to be a big play.''
Big play indeed. Here's Lewis' line so far as a Viking: One game. One reception. One touchdown. One moment that he may never top.
"That was pretty amazing by him to make that catch, and stay inbounds,'' Favre said of Lewis. "He just made an unbelievable catch.''
What a finish Favre and Lewis created for the Vikings' home-opening crowd, at least those who stuck around for Minnesota's game-winning drive, which started on its 20 with 1:29 to play. By now you've probably seen Lewis' balletic, foot-dragging back of the end zone catch a dozen times on the NFL highlight shows. It was the stuff of Santonio Holmes in last season's Super Bowl. Lewis' left foot was no more than an inch from the back line of the end zone, and he somehow was able to scrape his right foot across the turf as he looked the ball into his outstretched hands.
That was only the fourth snap of the game that Lewis played, and he was only on the field because Harvin was gassed after playing eight consecutive snaps earlier in the drive. Favre said he didn't even know it was Lewis he was throwing to in the end zone. He just saw a purple jersey moving left to right, and fired at him.
"I didn't know who caught it,'' said Favre, who finished 24 of 46 for 301 yards, becoming the Vikings first 300-yard passer in 64 games. "I knew I was going to get hit right when I let it go." (Linebacker Manny Lawson nailed him from behind a split-second too late.) "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.''
Lewis only signed a few weeks ago, after the Patriots decided he didn't fit into their plans, and Favre said the two have barely practiced together. Vikings head coach Brad Childress made Lewis inactive in Weeks 1 and 2, but because Harvin missed some practice this week, he decided to activate Lewis and keep five receivers for this game.
Childress said the last thing he told Vikings receivers coach George Stewart before the game started was "Don't be afraid to put Greg Lewis in the game,'' a suggestion that Stewart confirmed to me in the postgame locker room.
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