Notebook: Illegal first play sets stage for Vikings' awful start on offense
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It almost worked. Except it wasn't legal.
The Minnesota Vikings dialed up a stunner on the first play of Monday's game against the New York Jets -- a reverse to newly acquired receiver Randy Moss, who looked to throw all the way and ended up finding quarterback Brett Favre for a sprawling catch.
There were multiple problems, though.
Favre wasn't an eligible receiver on the play because he lined up under center. And Moss pumped and tucked before finally floating the pass to Favre -- taking long enough that center Ryan Cook wandered downfield illegally.
The resulting flag kicked off a brutal opening drive for the Vikings, who also committed two false starts and ended up in third-and-20.
"We just thought that with a guy like Percy (Harvin) with the ball in his hands first and then with a guy like Moss with the ball in his hand second, that we had a chance to get some people flat-foot and playing the line of scrimmage," coach Brad Childress said. "Obviously, when it doesn't work, it doesn't look that very good. Reverses are usually that way, as well as reverse passes."
By halftime, the Vikings had only 51 net yards, three first downs and a 9-0 deficit, capped by a fumbled snap by Favre that led to the Jets' third field goal.
Another Favre fumble and a punt opened the third quarter before the Vikings finally mounted the first of their three touchdown drives late in the third quarter.
"They were everything I thought they would be," Favre said of the Jets. "They are physical and active. They give you a lot of different blitz looks. They gave some unscouted blitz looks. In the second half, we did a good job of adjusting to it."
Five days after being acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots, Moss had 10 balls thrown his way and caught four for 81 yards -- including a 37-yard touchdown that breathed life into the Vikings and put them on the scoreboard with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
"Just a 'go,'" said Moss, who had Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie on him most of the night. "They called the play -- I think throughout the game we were trying to hit those deep balls."
Moss -- who had a strained relationship with the Twins Cities media by the end of his first tenure with the Vikings in 2004 -- initially refused an interview request and cursed at a reporter before holding court for about 6 minutes.
"I'm definitely happy to be back home," Moss said. "I thank the people for the phone calls, the letters and everything for me coming back home, but I don't think it means anything when you lose. I think that next week (against Dallas) we'll be in the Metrodome and hopefully, they'll have that thing rocking because we need to get on a roll and we need to get on a roll fast."
Cook's first NFL start at center didn't last long.
The Vikings replaced him with Jon Cooper in the third quarter after a series of false starts and a botched exchange with Favre.
"I understand what the first (penalty) was, and we talked about," Childress said. "We talked about how the ball couldn't be thrown to a quarterback or a quarterback couldn't be a receiver. We had some procedure issues getting the ball snapped. Whether it was crowd noise or the (weather), there needed to be a chance."
Harvin's big day
Of Favre's 34 passes, 27 (79.4%) were targeted for Moss, Harvin or tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
Harvin led the Vikings with five receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns -- the first time in the second-year pro's young career he's scored twice on offense in a game.
"I finally got my explosion and my strength back," said Harvin, who had been battling a hamstring injury."