New York Jet fans had this game circled on the calendar ever since ex-Jet Brett Favre’s latest “unretirement” this past summer.
Although they waited a little longer, through a weather delay at the start, and then through some tenuous moments in the fourth quarter, Jet fans finally got what they waited for – a victory over their former quarterback and his Minnesota Vikings (1-3), and a fourth straight win for the Jets (4-1), by a score of 29-20, on Monday Night Football at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
For more than 2½ quarters, in a driving rain, it appeared that Favre and the Vikings would go very quietly and do very little, with Jets’ kicker Nick Folk accounting for all of the scoring on four consecutive field goals to give the Jets a 12-0 lead.
Given the way the Jets’ defense contained Favre and the Minnesota offense to that point, Jet fans were more than happy to wait 45 minutes for the opening kickoff due to lightning being spotted in the area, and to see running back LaDanian Tomlinson (20 carries for a game-high 94 yards) single-handedly gain more yards (50) on the ground than the Vikings amassed in total (40) in the opening quarter.
Tomlinson would slightly edge Vikings’ star running back Adrian Peterson (18 rushes for 88 yards) for the game, to help the Jets to 155-96 rushing advantage, as Minnesota allowed its most rushing yards since December, 2006.
By halftime, the Jets held a dominant 206-51 advantage in total yards, along with a 9-0 lead, while holding Favre to only 31 yards passing on just 3 completions in 7 attempts. Favre also mishandled a snap with 4 minutes left in the half, leading to Folk’s third field goal. The miscue was the 162nd of Favre’s 20-year career, tying him with Warren Moon for the most NFL fumbles ever.
Favre then broke that record on the Vikings’ first possession of the third quarter, when he fumbled again, a turnover than led to Folk’s fourth field goal in as many attempts, with 8:49 left in the period.
By then, the Minnesota offense was doing so little (starting the game with six punts, Favre’s two fumbles, and a total of 58 yards on the Vikings’ first eight possessions), it didn’t matter that the Jets’ offense settled for nothing but fields goals despite already starting three possessions in Minnesota territory, and running 35 of the first 37 plays of the game to occur in an opponents’ end of the field.
But, when the rain stopped and passing conditions improved, Favre and the Vikings’ offense finally made the necessary adjustments to the Jets’ relentless blitz packages, and quickly got back in the game.
Favre rebounded from his miserable first half to throw for 233 yards and three touchdowns, despite a going an inaccurate 11-for-27 in the second half.
He also achieved two milestones while trying to rally the Vikings during the second half. On Minnesota’s ninth possession, Favre became the first player in NFL history to surpass 70,000 passing yards, and later on the same drive, he became the first NFL player to throw 500 touchdown passes, capping a 10-play, 72-yard possession with a 37-yard strike up the right sideline to wide receiver Randy Moss (4 catches, 81 yards, 1 TD), who made some history of his own.
Moss became the first NFL player to play on Monday Night Football in consecutive weeks, after rejoining the team that drafted him in the first round in 1998, after helping New England to a MNF win in Miami last week.
Simply having a fellow future hall of fame weapon like Moss, whom Favre coveted since Moss’ days in Minnesota, meant more to Favre than the milestones he reached. On those, Favre said after the game, “It’s all about the wins,” regretting the loss to the Jets and the Vikings underachieving 1-3 start more than relishing his landmark accomplishments. But, on the touchdown to Moss, Favre admitted, “I’ve been thinking about that for 8 to 10 years.”
Kick returner Brad Smith immediately got the Jets back in business after Moss’ touchdown, with an 86-yard kickoff return to the Minnesota 19 yard-line. But, all that led to was the Jets starting a fourth possession in Viking territory without a touchdown, as New York settled for Folk’s fifth field goal, which put the Jets ahead, 15-7, heading into the final quarter.
Starting a 5-play, 65-yard drive in the final minute of the third quarter, the Vikings closed to within 15-13 with 12:47 left in the game, on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Favre to wide receiver Percy Harvin (5 catches, game-high 97 yards, 2 TD).
Minnesota didn’t need to go for a two-point conversion at that point, and things might have worked out better for the Vikings later on, had they opted to kick the extra point, instead. After lining up for the PAT, Minnesota called a timeout, then went for two, and failed.
That became significant, because after the teams traded punts, the Jets drove 66 yards on 6 plays, to lead 22-13 on a 23-yard touchdown burst by running back Shonn Greene (10 rushes, 57 yards, 1 TD), with 4:30 left.
Favre would again answer, taking the Vikings 54 yards on 5 plays in just 1:11, finding Harvin for an 11-yard score with 3:09 remaining. Had the Vikings kicked the PAT after they previous touchdown, they could have gone for two, to tie the game at 22-22, but having failed on the earlier two-point attempt, Minnesota could only kick the PAT to pull to within 22-20.
The Jets then had their own brain lock with time management. With a chance to wait for the two-minute warning and then run one more play afterwards, to leave Favre and the Vikings less time, New York snapped the ball too soon. Quarterback Mark Sanchez (21 of 44, 191 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) threw too high and incomplete on 3rd-and-11, and after a fourth-down punt, the Vikings had plenty of time left with 1:48 on the clock, needing just a field goal to win, starting from their own 16 yard-line.
However, two plays later, Favre would make two misguided throws that would seal the Vikings’ Fate.
On 2nd-and-10, Favre rolled away from pressure, to his right, and had Harvin wide open at the Minnesota 24 yard-line. Harvin had plenty of room, possibly enough to score, or at least to get well into Jets’ territory. But, what should have been an easy dump-off pass, sailed well high of Harvin and incomplete.
One play later, cornerback Dwight Lowery stepped in front of a ball that Favre tried to force to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and raced untouched, 26 yards, into the end zone, to ice the game for the Jets, with 1:30 left.
Favre’s only interception extended another NFL record – one he didn’t want – his 324th career interception.
In contrast to Favre’s three turnovers, the Jets, who sacked Favre four times, tied an NFL record by playing their fourth straight game without committing a turnover.
Favre (14 of 34, 264 yards) was impressed with the Jets’ play, saying “We played what I feel like is the best team in the AFC.”
The first-place Jets will be seeking their fifth straight win next Sunday in Denver, at 4:05 EST, against the Broncos (2-3), who have alternated losses and wins each week since the start of the season. That trend would indicate a Denver win in that case, with the Broncos coming off a loss in Baltimore on Sunday. However, Denver will be banged up, having already ruled out five players (who were hurt in Baltimore) next Sunday.