A few hours after television’s newest blockbuster entry for the fall season aired in Cleveland as “The Brett and Adrian Show” Sunday, NBC’s Bob Costas interviewed Jay Leno to promote Leno’s new comedy hour opening tonight.
“I was surprised to see Favre get through the game without retiring,” Leno dead-panned.
He might have been less surprised watching Adrian Peterson rescue the Minnesota Vikings from potential embarrassment in the second half of their 34-20 victory over the Browns.
The Vikings played the first half of the game pretty much with the detached look of impostors. Peterson played it on the verge of a fainting spell, woozy and bleeding from an arm cut early in the game. They gave him IV fluids to rebuild his energy and, in the second half with the chronically clumsy Browns still showing fight, they gave him the ball from 64 yards out.
Game over, and Brett Favre’s latest incarnation, the first day out, was a success. The team won. Favre, getting himself conditioned and learning the roadmap, basically came as a beneficiary. He got sacked four times but clearly felt love again. He managed the second half professionally, perhaps remarkably well, when you consider that he arrived only a month ago. He compiled a scant 110 yards on 14 completions in 21 attempts but he played the course. There seemed nothing wrong with his arm strength, although he understandably was not in synch with his receivers on some of his throws. But one of them was a touchdown to the new fireball, Percy Harvin, who is young enough to be his son. And he was undiluted Favre again when he raced into the end zone to give Harvin a paternal bearhug. The bonding was exuberant and strenuous. It was hard to know which of them felt more delirious.
But they were still showing Peterson’s run on the highlight reels eight hours later when in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers arched a now-or-never pass deep to Greg Jennings with a minute left to beat the Chicago Bears. It set the Packers on a collision course for their Oct. 5 date with the Vikings and Brett Favre in Minneapolis.
Having watched Adrian Peterson into this third season of his career, pro football people as well as the goggle-eyed public now admit the folly of isolating any of his long touchdown runs and enshrining it as an epic. What would you call the next one? Most of them are one burst, one veer, and Peterson is off in space and see you in the end zone.
But in Cleveland, he had obstacles. Defensive backs came at him in relays as he bolted down the sidelines. He left one virtually naked in his socks with two shoulder fakes, threw another out of bounds with his free arm and then sideswiped and discarded Brandon McDonald on his way into the end zone. To be fair, you had to call it an unequal match. Four against Adrian.
This clearly is not enough. In Minneapolis, the old leprechaun coach, Jerry Burns, an expert on offense, watched Adrian Peterson on television.
“You have one of the great runners, there,” he said, “not only with his speed and strength but his instincts. Talent? Yeah, a lot. But it’s more than that.. A lot of guys have talent. He’s got the whole package. He knows the angles to run, how to attack, and he has this terrific drive to be all that he can. He wants to run, to catch the ball and block. You can analyze how he plays, but after a while, you just want to sit back and watch how he plays. And then you look at him as a person. He’s the nicest guy, a class act.”
He also has, after one game, three touchdowns and 180 yards. And you’d have to say this about the Vikings first game: They managed to perform the very difficult feat of carrying suspense into the second half against one of the truly sad-sack groups in the National Football League. In fact if you were awarding the game balls on the basis of reality on the ground, you’d have to give one to Peterson, another to Antoine Winfield, the ferocious-tackling defensive back, and one to the National Football League’s designer of schedules. In the first week of the season, the Vikings were matched against a team that has lost 10 of its 11 home opening games since Cleveland re-entered the league. Next week, the Vikings will walk into the jaws of a Detroit Lions’ team that lost all 16 games last year and started off clearly bent on defending this record streak by giving up six touchdown passes Sunday to Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
Viking fans, aflame again with notions of a possible run to the Super Bowl this year, might pause to remember their angst of another time and empathize with the misery of the football folks in Detroit and Cleveland. These are people, an Ohio blogger lamented last week “who are caught in an abusive relationship with the Browns.”
We do know some of the truths heading into the season. One is that Adrian Peterson is now one of the genuine poster boys of the National Football League. He comes at you in most of the NFL promotional clips, bare-chested, abs rippling, determined, strong, on a mission, now a major national celebrity.
We also know that the commercials are coming off the wall, wild and goofier. The latest is Direct TV’s series in which football addicts are sitting in a small room, something like a treatment center. The counselor extends tough love. He knows the emptiness, he says. They need community, guidance. They don’t have to feel alone any more. They need a sponsor. “Direct TV,” he says, will ease their stress. It will give them every football game being played Sunday, all on one screen!”
The ultimate cure.