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A season after winning the NFC North but falling short in their first playoff game, the Vikings came into this season with sky-high expectations because of the arrival of Brett Favre. But Favre’s magical season didn’t happen without other developments helping pave the way to a 12-4 record and a spot in the NFC championship. The defense remained a top-tier unit, RB Adrian Peterson scored 18 TDs and two young receivers — Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin — had breakout seasons.
Vikings 34, Browns 20
Favre’s Vikings debut was overshadowed by Peterson, who ran for what would be a season-high 180 yards and three touchdowns after being held in check in the first half. It wouldn’t take long for Favre to connect with Harvin, who scored his first TD reception on a six-yard catch. The defense wasn’t perfect, and the special teams allowed a punt-return score, but the Vikings had a successful debut.
Vikings 27, Lions 13
The Lions, losers of 18 straight, kept things close and led 10-7 at the half. But the Vikings scored 27 unanswered, and Chad Greenway picked off a career-high two passes from rookie QB Matthew Stafford. Favre hit on 23-of-27 passes but completed mostly short passes as the Vikings continued to keep the wraps on the passing game after an abbreviated offseason.
Vikings 27, 49ers 24
It was the first sign that there would be magic in Minnesota. Favre, making his home debut, took a beating and misfired on several passes. But he rallied late, driving the Vikings 80 yards in the final 89 seconds, firing an off-balance pass — and taking a shot after the throw — to little-used WR Greg Lewis, who tap-danced into the back of the endzone with two seconds left.
Vikings 30, Packers 23
In the most hyped Monday nighter in years, Favre delivered a performance for the ages. Facing the Packers for the first time, Favre was unearthly, throwing for 271 yards and three TDs on 24-of-31 passing and becoming the first QB to defeat all 32 teams. Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s replacement in Green Bay, was equally as impressive at times, but the Vikings’ “D” sacked him eight times, including 4½ (one for a safety) by Jared Allen. On a night when Peterson struggled, Favre took the offense under his control.
Vikings 38, Rams 10
There was no letdown in St. Louis as the Vikings forced three fumbles, with Allen scooping up two and running one back for a 52-yard score. The Vikings put the game away early in the second half when TE Visanthe Shiancoe caught a TD on the end of a 90-yard drive. It would be the Rams’ 15th straight loss, and the Vikings’ first 5-0 start in six years. Favre, who turned 40 the day before the game, was solid, and Peterson scored twice in limited duty.
Vikings 33, Ravens 31
Rice caught six passes for 176 yards, and the Vikings were well on their way to a blowout, up 17 points with 10 minutes left when Ray Rice led a furious comeback and the Ravens led 31-30. But Favre hit Rice on a 58-yard catch, setting up Ryan Longwell’s fourth field goal of the game with under two minutes remaining. The Ravens had a chance to win, but Ravens PK Stephen Hauschka missed a 44-yarder as time expired.
Steelers 27, Vikings 17
The Vikings fell apart in the fourth quarter again, but this time it cost them. Favre threw for 334 yards, and Harvin returned another kickoff for a touchdown. But Pittsburgh held on when Favre’s pass went through Chester Taylor’s hands and into those of LB Keyaron Fox, who ran the interception back 82 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with a minute left.
Vikings 38, Packers 26
The rematch against the Packers was even more emotional for Favre in his return to Lambeau Field, which he called home for 16 years. But he didn’t let it affect his performance, carving up the Packers again. Favre threw for four TDs, hitting WR Bernard Berrian on a 16-yard score that capped off the game with 3:54 left. The Packers trailed 24-3, but Rodgers led a furious comeback that came up short again. Harvin (261 total yards) was tremendous.
Vikings 27, Lions 10
The red-hot Rice had 201 receiving yards against the shorthanded Lions, leading a 344-yard passing attack. The Vikings were sloppy, converting 3-of-11 third downs and committing 13 penalties for 91 yards, which kept the game close until late. Peterson bailed them out with 133 tough ground yards and two touchdowns.
Vikings 35, Seahawks 9
The defense was dominant, holding the Seahawks to four rushing yards and preventing them from crossing midfield until late in the third quarter when they trailed 28-0. The Vikings pulled Favre from the game early in the fourth quarter after he completed 22-of-25 passes, for a career-high 88.0 completion percentage.
Vikings 36, Bears 10
Favre continued his mastery of the Bears with 392 yards passing (10 shy of his career best) and logged his 282nd consecutive regular-season game, tying the record by a position player set by Vikings great Jim Marshall. The Vikings outgained the Bears 537-169; it was the most yards the Bears had allowed since 1982.
Cardinals 30, Vikings 17
The Cardinals shocked the Vikings with an assault on Favre, as WR Larry Fitzgerald ripped his hometown team for 143 yards receiving and a TD and — worst of all — the Vikings lost MLB E.J. Henderson, the leader of the defense, to yet another season-ending injury. Kurt Warner outplayed Favre as the Vikings limped home.
Vikings 30, Bengals 10
CB Antoine Winfield, out since Week Six, finished with nine tackles, including several big hits, and a forced fumble. He and Peterson (two TDs) led the way for a physical victory over the Bengals, who passed for only 103 yards.
Panthers 26, Vikings 7
Favre and Brad Childress held a heated argument on the sideline after Childress wanted to pull Favre from the game in the third quarter. Favre convinced Childress to keep him in but took a beating, especially from Panthers DE Julius Peppers. The Vikings couldn’t stop Carolina WR Steve Smith, who had 157 yards and a touchdown.
Bears 36, Vikings 30 (OT)
Nothing went right in the first half as the Vikings trailed 16-0, but Favre lit it up in the second, tying the game in the final minute with a fourth-down TD pass to Rice in the corner of the endzone. But Peterson fumbled early in OT, and Bears WR Devin Aromashodu was able to get past Winfield for the game-winning touchdown.
Vikings 44, Giants 7
Favre and the Vikings took it to the Giants, who had been eliminated from the postseason the week prior. Although the Vikings had wrapped up a first-round bye in the playoffs, the starters remained in the game until the third quarter in this thrashing.
Vikings 34, Cowboys 3
Momentum might have been on the side of the Cowboys, who came in as one of the hotter teams. But the Vikings cooled them off quickly, sacking Tony Romo six times and forcing three fumbles. Peterson’s struggles continued, but Favre threw for a playoff-best four TDs, including the first three to Rice, who had 141 yards receiving.
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