Notebook: Favre not 'off the deep end,' but not happy at 3-6 either
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre never expected to be here.
He never expected his fourth -- and perhaps final -- matchup with his longtime team, the Green Bay Packers, would amount to an elimination game for the Minnesota Vikings.
Veteran Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher went so far as to say he felt bad for Favre after Sunday's 27-13 decision dropped the Vikings to 3-6 with seven games to go.
"I wouldn't say I was joyful afterwards," Favre said on Wednesday. "Everyone reads things differently. I had just a brief conversation with Brian, as I did with a couple of those guys after the game, and just wished him well. ...
"I don't think I said or did anything that would warrant, 'Boy, he's fallen off the deep end' or something. As you would expect, after that game, we all collectively should have been disappointed."
The numbers and the Vikings' record may not reflect it, but Favre has played better over the past three weeks -- his accuracy and timing improving despite foot, ankle, chin, elbow and shoulder problems that have hit him at various times in his 20th NFL season.
Still, the decline in Favre's production represents a microcosm of the Vikings' disappointing season.
In 2009, Favre was second in the NFL in passer rating (107.2), tied for second in touchdown passes (33) and third in completion percentage (68.4) while throwing only seven interceptions as the Vikings went 12-4 on their way to the division title.
This season, he's 31st (72.2 rating), tied for 21st (10 touchdown passes) and 15th (62.3%) and has thrown a league-high 16 interceptions for the Vikings, who are three games back of Chicago and Green Bay in the NFC North standings.
Favre also has lost five fumbles to bring his total to 21 turnovers -- a primary factor in the Vikings' NFL-worst turnover margin of minus-11.
"You like to think that you coach those (turnovers) out of people," coach Brad Childress said, "but you still know that part of those turnovers and part of that risk-taking -- those guys have to live on the edge. They have to be aggressive. Otherwise, you've got a guy that looks up field and checks it down every single time. It's hard to move the football that way."
Three of Favre's interceptions came against the Bears, although none was entirely his fault. One was tipped at the line and two others were intended for receivers who fell while trying to cut on Soldier Field's choppy turf.
Favre also had a potential touchdown pass bounce off receiver Greg Camarillo's hands -- one of few throws the 41-year-old quarterback wished he'd placed better on a day he was "very accurate" despite the absence of several key receivers.
"That's the type of plays we were making last year regardless," Favre said. "That's the type of plays from here on out, regardless of who's in there, we have to make. As you look back you go, 'Boy, look at all these games. There was all of this.'
"I can go back to Percy (Harvin) against Miami (in a loss on Sept. 19). I throw a low post throw to him. Last year, no doubt, touchdown. Ball bounces up in the air this year, they pick it off. We have to make those. It starts with me on down the line. We can't make excuses that if I would have had this guy in or he doesn't slip down or if he'd thrown it a little bit higher versus lower, if Sidney would have been in there. We just can't make those excuses."
As he has every other time the Vikings have played his old team, Favre downplayed how much he's thinking about Sunday's matchup with the Packers, saying "there's no time to think about those types of things."
And Childress said he's given no thought -- at least, not yet -- to giving backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson a chance to show his progress if another loss pushes the Vikings to the brink of playoff elimination.
"You don't one week before have a career-best (446 passing yards) and throw for that many yards if you don't still have great skills and great tools," Childress said. "You look at turnovers and you say, 'Tip ball turnovers, can you avoid that?' Those are hard things to avoid. You throw over people for a living and sometimes a guy gets a hand on the ball and a lot of times it goes the other way.
"It's the same reason that he came back here in the first place -- because I feel like we have a chance to win and score the most points with him in the game."
The Packers are tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-six turnover margin, thanks in part to 17 takeaways.
All seven of the teams at plus-six or better have winning records, with the Philadelphia Eagles on top at plus-12.
"It's huge that we can hopefully turn that around," linebacker Ben Leber said. "We look at the stats all the time, as far as how important turnovers are just in wins and losses alone, especially on the road or at home. They're always important. We're definitely trying to secure the ball more on offense and we're trying to take the ball away. It's just one of those things where it's not a lack of effort -- we just need to come up with some of the plays."
No problem for Percy
Harvin doesn't think the left ankle injury he aggravated in Sunday's loss will impact his availability for this week.
"Just got twisted up in the pile," Harvin said. "So, we calmed it down a little bit and it's doing a lot better."
The second-year receiver participated in a Wednesday practice -- albeit on a limited basis -- for the first time since he sustained the original injury on Oct. 31 at New England, providing a good sign for a Vikings team that isn't sure it'll have Bernard Berrian or Sidney Rice on Sunday.
The Packers pose a particular challenge to Harvin because cornerback Charles Woodson, the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year, plays the slot receiver in the nickel defense. At age 34, Woodson isn't having the same season he did a year ago, but he gave up only one catch to Harvin in the teams' first meeting -- a post for 37 yards.
"He's just sneaky," Harvin said. "You can tell he studies the little details -- a lot of stuff people don't pay attention to. But if I can get him running side-to-side, I'll be all right."
• The Packers had their bye last week, so they've played only twice -- wins over the New York Jets (9-0) and Dallas (45-7) -- since beating the Vikings 28-24 on Oct. 24 at Lambeau Field. "We only got two more games of evidence really, them playing the Jets and Dallas," Childress said. "So, you go back beforehand, what worked well. We'll have our hands full. They're scoring a lot of points. They're active on the defensive side. They're a beatable team. We feel that way every week when we come in."
• WR Greg Lewis bristled at the suggestion that finishing Sunday's game without Berrian, Harvin and Rice was a primary factor in the loss. "We just have to as a whole offensive unit, as a whole team, just not make excuses and just go out and play and figure out what we need to do to get wins," Lewis said. "If somebody's not there, then that doesn't matter, or somebody is there, it really doesn't matter. It's whoever's out there, they have an opportunity and they have a responsibility to get the job done, and we haven't done that as a team, and it shows. We're 3-6."