Brett Favre and Percy Harvin: The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

M. EccherCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2009

CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 13:  Percy Harvin #12 of the Minnesota Vikings dives for a touchdown as he is hit Brodney Pool #21 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

If the Fox Sports broadcast team made one thing clear on Sunday, it was this: Brett Favre and Percy Harvin really dig each other.

Harvin admires how much Favre has to teach him. Favre admires how quickly Harvin learns. Favre loves throwing passes to Harvin. Harvin loves catching passes from Favre.

Harvin likes Favre's beard. Favre likes Harvin's tattoos. They're thinking of getting an apartment together. Harvin is thinking of taking Favre's daughter to dinner and a movie.

Or something like that.

If you get past the buddy-cop overtones of the rookie's bond with the greybeard, though, you can't help but notice that Farve-to-Harvin is shaping up to be Minnesota’s Next Big Thing.

Favre still hasn’t spent a full month in purple, and his ultra-conservative approach in the season opener—14-of-21 for 110 yards, one touchdown, and no picks—signaled that the Vikings aren’t ready to take off the training wheels yet. 

He completed more passes to running backs (five to Chester Taylor, one to Adrian Peterson) than he did to wide receivers (three to Harvin, two to Sidney Rice). Most of his throws amounted to extended hand-offs.

But when the Vikings got the chance to blow the game open following Cedric Griffin's interception midway through the third quarter, Harvin became Favre’s weapon of choice.

After a Shaun Rogers sack pushed the Vikings back to 2nd-and-18 deep in their own territory and threatened to put the kibosh on the drive, Favre found Harvin in stride for 21 yards and the first down. Seven plays later, Favre connected with Harvin on back-to-back tries in the red zone—first to turn a 2nd-and-12 into a manageable 3rd-and-3, then to knife into the end zone for a 23-13 lead.

Favre punctuated the score, Harvin’s first as a pro, with a running tackle that made the quarterback’s preseason crackback block look downright tame.

Harvin had better get used to it: With Bernard Berrian still finding his way after a hamstring injury that cost him the preseason, and Bobby Wade out of the picture after leading the team in receptions last season, the first-year receiver will have plenty of opportunities for an encore.

Minnesota’s passing attack still has a long way to go in its quest for respectability. The Vikings aren’t going to rush for 225 yards a week, and in the long run, four first downs in the air won’t get the job done.

But the budding buddy-cop story about the old fogey from Mississippi and the young hotshot out of Florida might have a very happy ending.

In other news…

Fool Me Twice? Not This Time

After a direct snap to Josh Cribbs netted the Browns a first down on the very first series of the season, it’s easy to understand why Eric Mangini would be high on the concept.

But Cleveland’s use of the formation on consecutive snaps at the Minnesota goal line in the second quarter was a clinic in how to botch the Wildcat.

On 2nd-and-3 from three yards out, Cribbs took the snap and ran for two. When he lined up to take the snap again on 3rd-and-1, he might as well have been wearing a sign that said, “I’m the guy to tackle.”

And tackle him the Vikings did. Ray Edwards blew up the play in the backfield for a loss of two, and the Browns had to settle for a field goal.

The Wildcat works when the defense doesn’t know what’s coming. Take away the element of surprise, and it’s just a good way to subject your receivers to big hits.

You’re Gonna Want To Lock That Down

The first time the Vikings punted the ball away to Cribbs on Sunday, their special teams coverage looked stellar. Linebacker Heath Farwell teamed up with cornerback Karl Paymah to drop Cribbs after a three-yard return.

The second time they punted? Cribbs ripped off a 67-yard runback for a touchdown.

It was enough to invoke bad memories of the havoc Reggie Bush wreaked on Minnesota’s punt coverage last October, when the Vikings coughed up two of their league-worst four return touchdowns allowed.

Farwell, the team’s special teams MVP from 2007 who missed all of last year with a knee injury, was supposed to help stop the bleeding. So was Paymah, who led the Broncos is special teams tackles last season before coming to Minnesota as a free agent.

Cribbs, of course, is a proven threat in the return game. The fifth-year receiver has recorded seven career scores on kick and punt returns, including three in 2008. And the Vikings nailed him for a three-yard loss the next time he fielded a punt.

But giving away points on special teams is the kind of a problem that prevents a good scoring defense from being a great one.

If You Drafted Adrian Peterson…

...then you’re probably having a good Monday.


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