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Updated: September 23rd, 2010 4:46pm
Pelissero: All challenges aside, Brett Favre has to spur passing game

Pelissero: All challenges aside, Brett Favre has to spur passing game

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Take your pick of the alarming statistics to illustrate the depth of the Minnesota Vikings' problems throwing the football.

Brett Favre's passer rating (56.1) ranks 29th in the NFL -- worse than St. Louis rookie Sam Bradford (63.5) and Oakland's Jason Campbell (61.9), who got benched last week.

When throwing to receivers, Favre has completed only 13 of 29 passes (44.8%) for 129 yards, with three interceptions and an atrocious 14.9 rating.

Perhaps most striking, the Vikings have scored only 19 points, which is fewer than every team except the Buffalo Bills (17). To put that in perspective, the Vikings scored 19 points or fewer in only two games all of last season, when they ranked second in the NFL in scoring (29.4 per game).

Or take your pick of remarks from Favre in his Thursday media conference, in which the veteran quarterback indicated he's not on the same page with coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, may have to play more conservatively and still doesn't know to whom he's throwing on some plays.

"I would say I spend the majority of my studying on what we're doing," Favre said on Thursday. "It's always important to know your opponent, but it's more important to know exactly what you're doing and who's doing it. And if I sat here and told you that I know exactly what we're doing right now, I'd be lying."

Take your pick of the jokes that can be inserted here about the value of training camp. The reality is it's a dead issue at Winter Park, because Favre had tacit permission to arrive late and there's no way to get back those three weeks anyway.

All Favre and the Vikings can do at this point is try to fit their scheme and approach to their ever-morphing, Sidney Rice-less cast of receivers -- rather than vice versa, as appeared to be the case at times in Sunday's turnover-filled home loss to the Miami Dolphins.

"We've got to score more points than what we're scoring, no secret, and it's going to be hard right now to score a lot of points," Favre said. "It's always hard to score points, but considering we're working guys in and out, we're kind of piecing this puzzle together -- you can't make anything harder by turning the ball over or taking too many chances."

The receiver carousel has continued to turn in recent days, with Percy Harvin getting another migraine, Bernard Berrian battling a knee injury, Hank Baskett signing hours after Philadelphia put him on the street and the Vikings reportedly offering a second-round draft pick to San Diego for suspended Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson before talks broke off. All of which is without mentioning Greg Camarillo's continuing education in the Vikings' offense after arriving a month ago.

"It's been shuffling the deck quite a bit and trying to get those skills in the right spots," Bevell said.

Childress acknowledged on Wednesday that "I've seen guys open, that we didn't quite get to. I've seen better routes we could have run. I've seen if we could have protected another step. I wouldn't put it in one area. I wouldn't slap it on the wide receiver and say they aren't making plays -- they're doing what we ask them to do. If anything, I probably need to do a better job of helping design some things to get them open better."

Favre spent time during the early portion of Thursday's practice as a defensive back, shadowing receivers as they went through routes and then gesticulating pointers.

"It's easy when we have guys go down and stuff to just reach out there and say, "Let's go get (someone else),'" Favre said. "Then everyone kind of jumps on the bandwagon -- 'Vincent Jackson will save the day.' I don't know. Obviously, the guy's pretty good. But the thing is the guys that we have, me included -- we have to make it work. That's our job.

"To play a game and then come back the next day and say, 'Well, we need to go get this guy or get that guy' -- there's plays to be made with the guys that we have."

It won't hurt that Sunday's opponent, the Detroit Lions, rank among the NFL's worst through two weeks in pass defense (305 yards per game), opponent passer rating (108.1) and points allowed (27). Even without Rice, who had 201 receiving yards in teams' last meeting, the Vikings would seem to be entering the sort of matchup that can get some positive momentum going.

Harvin and Berrian were limited in practice on Thursday, but both should play. So should Favre, who added a sore right elbow to his officially disclosed ailments when the injury report was released.

"One thing I always continue to remind (Favre) is, 'Hey, you don't have to be the one to make all of the plays -- you just have to make the routine plays,'" Bevell said. "His ability is going to enable him to make the spectacular plays -- he's just going to make those as they come. You've got to make the routine ones, play in and play out. You've got to trust the system."

Take your pick of the excuses that might come out if things don't come around this week. Injuries, roster turnover, game plan, protection, whatever.

From an execution standpoint, the turnaround has to begin with Favre, who isn't being paid $1 million a game just to hand off to Adrian Peterson. Or force throws into coverage when his primary read is open. Or miss open receivers on third down.

The Vikings begged Favre to come back because he's capable of elevating the players around him -- even when those players, and the plans to utilize them, seem to change from week to week.

"Last year, we didn't have to really talk about this, because it was pretty productive from Day 1, so everything seemed to go fine," Favre said. "Right now, we're kind of grasping at straws, trying to figure out things. I think we, me included, can get on the same page even better. We have to meet in the middle. I think we've done a good job, but we can do a better job. I think that's both sides -- Darrell and I, Brad.

"When I leave the building, I don't know what goes on in their staff meetings. That's not my concern. We all need to be on the same page more. I don't want to raise red flags. We have to get on the same page, because we're 0-2. We have to find a way to get this thing going."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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