Notebook: Joe Webb struggles; potential free agents ponder future
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DETROIT -- For all the veteran poise Joe Webb showed in his first NFL start, he looked every bit like a rookie in his second.
Five days after an impressive showing in Philadelphia, Webb overthrew a sure touchdown pass, tossed a bad interception and finished with only 148 passing yards and a 60.4 rating as the Minnesota Vikings fell 20-13 to the Detroit Lions in Sunday's season finale at Ford Field.
"They relied more on their front four to rush and played a lot of deep Cover-2 on the deep end to try to take away the receivers," Webb said. "We just didn't execute on our part very well."
The sixth-round draft pick from UAB completed a respectable 62.5% of his passes (20 of 32). But most of Webb's success came on checkdowns, his longest completion was 20 yards and he made two bad mistakes that helped turn the tide in Detroit's favor.
The first came on the offense's second series, with the Vikings facing second-and-15 from the Detroit 39-yard line.
Third-down back Lorenzo Booker motioned wide left before the snap and the Lions blew coverage down the sideline. But Webb tried to throw on the move to his left instead of setting his feet, and the ball sailed over Booker's head for an incompletion.
"Yeah, that one hurt," Webb said. "That's one of the hardest throws for a quarterback, any quarterback. You see a wide-open person, you just want to say, 'Man, let me just hit him. I don't want to miss him.' But that would have been a game-changer right there and we just didn't execute on that part."
A third-down swing pass to Booker gained only 7 yards, and the Vikings punted instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal.
On their next possession, the Vikings drove to the Lions' 40-yard line and ended up facing third-and-8. Webb appeared to have running room as he scrambled out of the pocket, but he instead opted to throw back across the field for receiver Greg Lewis, who took his route upfield and left cornerback Amari Spievey with an easy interception.
"It was just miscommunication," Webb said. "I seen him in the hole, and right when I threw it, he had took off and ran downfield and I guess he was thinking I was going to throw it deep. It was just miscommunication, but on my part, I shouldn't have threw it back across field like that. So, it's just a mistake I'm going to have to learn from."
Drafted as a receiver before former coach Brad Childress returned him to his natural position following rookie minicamp, Webb entered training camp behind Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and eventually Brett Favre -- who sat out a second straight game with a concussion -- but ended up in the lineup because of injuries.
In four appearances at quarterback, including relief duty on Dec. 13 against the New York Giants and on Dec. 20 against Chicago, Webb finished 54-of-89 passing (60.7%) for 477 yards with no touchdown passes, three interceptions and a 60.9 rating. He did run for two touchdowns, including a crucial 9-yard score in the upset win in Philadelphia.
Favre almost certainly will not return and Jackson is unsigned beyond the season, leaving the most important position highly uncertain for 2011. Webb and Rhett Bomar, who was signed off the New York Giants practice squad last month, are the only quarterbacks under contract.
Asked whether he thinks he's earned a shot to compete for the job, Webb said, "Yeah, that's what I'm working for. And I believe that's every player on the team. Whoever, like third string, second string -- they're competing for that starting position. So, we'll see what happens next year. I'm going to have a great offseason training and get ready for it."
Linebacker Chad Greenway said he hasn't given much thought to what it'll take for him to return to the Vikings next season.
"Take a breath now and see what happens," said Greenway, one of nine starters and 22 players total who are unsigned for 2011.
"I can't really do much else. Put a good year together but obviously we want to have the team success so that's what's disappointing."
Receiver Sidney Rice didn't play because of a concussion in what could have been his last game in a Vikings uniform, too, depending on whether the next labor agreement increases the seasons needed for unrestricted free agency from four.
"We haven't even discussed anything about contract or anything like that," Rice said. "I'm just keeping my ear open and listen to what the team has to say. I don't mind being here. I was drafted here, I love the people here, the fans. Everything is good."
Other potential unrestricted free agents include: Favre (20th season), place-kicker Ryan Longwell (14th), defensive tackle Pat Williams (14th), linebacker Ben Leber (ninth), cornerback Lito Sheppard (ninth), receiver Greg Lewis (eighth), cornerback Frank Walker (eighth), quarterback Patrick Ramsey (eighth), receiver Hank Baskett (fifth), offensive lineman Ryan Cook (fifth), end Ray Edwards (fifth), defensive tackle Fred Evans (fifth), quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (fifth), fullback Naufahu Tahi (fifth), safety Eric Frampton (fourth) and end Brian Robison (fourth).
"I don't have any choice but to sit back and wait," Leber said. "If free agency even starts, it's not going to start until March and we don't even know if we're going to have that right now. There's so much that has to be done so there's no point in really even thinking about it. Just sit back and enjoy some time off."
Safety Husain Abdullah (third) and linebacker Erin Henderson (third) could become restricted free agents. Running back Albert Young (second) and receiver Jaymar Johnson (second) remain under team control.
• Vikings owner Zygi Wilf presented Lions owner William Ford with a painted game ball in appreciation of providing Ford Field for the Vikings' displaced home game against the New York Giants on Dec. 13.
• For the second time in three days, QB Brett Favre declined to answer a question about the $50,000 fine the NFL imposed on him for failing to cooperate with its investigation of sexually charged allegations against him. "I'm done," Favre mumbled as he left the interview room.
• Frazier said he passed on the 51-yard field goal attempt because it "was a little bit beyond where Ryan (Longwell) needed to be. We were right on the border, and we didn't want to give them a short field with the score being what it was. At least give him a situation where, if we missed it, they were going to start with a lot less yardage to have to come back and score. We wanted to back them up and I think we ended up forcing a punt after we backed them up in that situation."