Foreman's impressive pass catching may stem from the fact that he played as a wide receiver in college last season. "When I was younger," he says, "I played tight end and defensive lineman, so my idols weren't running backs but guys like Alex Karras and John Mackey. This will only be my second full year as a running back and I have a lot to learn."
It should also bode well for the Vikings that Tarkenton, who began his career with the club, is now in his second season after five years with the Giants and has learned a lot. Some Minnesota fans blamed Francis for the team's 7-7 record last year, since he had returned to the kind of expectations usually reserved for the Messiah but, in fact, he was very nearly peerless. He passed for 18 touchdowns and 2,651 yards and was the third-ranked quarterback in the league.
"Whoever put the tag 'scrambler' on him did him a disservice because basically he's not a scrambler," says Grant in his defense. "He's got quick feet and he can roll out and move around, but those are designed things to change the pass rush and confuse the coverages. He buys some time by moving. He'll step outside the pocket for a better view, but no sideline-to-sideline stuff anymore."
"I like to think I'm playing differently," Tarkenton says. "I can't say my style has changed that much, but I hope I'm playing better after 12 years in the pros. The game has changed a lot. You see a more mobile quarterback today; 12 years ago, if a team had one great pass rusher, that was all they had. Now everybody's got four. Everybody's got big, mobile, agile people who can run. If you always throw from a seven-yard pocket, it makes their job easier."
"When you face Tarkenton," Green Bay Defensive Tackle Mike McCoy said on Saturday, "you don't get too much sleep the night before the game. He puts a lot of pressure on you with all that dancing and moving. It's especially tough on the defensive ends because they have to rush wide, and if the cornerbacks don't hold their coverages right up to the last second, he can hit the open man. He isn't very tall, you know, and I don't think he could stay in the pocket all the time if he wanted to, but if he gets outside your ends, then you're in real trouble."
Green Bay did a creditable job of containing Tarkenton, although he did run twice for 16 yards. In contrast to the usual formula for winning in the NFC Central, Minnesota mistakes outnumbered those of the Pack. The most horrendous was John Gilliam's drop of a touchdown pass from Tarkenton, who completed 12 of 16 for 109 yards.
"Tarkenton," Devine said, "is like rare wine. He gets better with age."
The same could be said of the Viking defense, which limited John Brockington and MacArthur Lane to 94 yards rushing. In its first two games Minnesota had allowed both Oakland and Chicago 200 yards on the ground.
"Forget how many yards they've yielded," Devine said before the game. "The defense has given up only one touchdown. The statistics don't tell you anything about Minnesota's defense until you try to score from the one-yard line."
Unfortunately for Devine, the Packers never got that close against the awesome line play of Alan Page, who has recovered from the pulled calf muscle that slowed him a year ago. Green Bay's deepest penetration, to the Minnesota 27-yard line, fizzled in one of the two field goals missed by Chester Marcol; he booted a 42-yarder for the Pack's only score.