Brett Favre emerged just long enough from Greek mythology last night to hurl a few thunderbolts and lead the Minnesota Vikings to a win over their archrivals the Green Bay Packers in one of the most anticipated Monday night matchups in modern history.
The final score: Zeus 30, the Packers 23.
While the cliché all season has been that the Vikings is running back Adrian Peterson's team, Favre reminded everyone that he's not just a member of the Greek chorus. There are running backs and there are legends.
Favre methodically took over the game after the Packers shut down the running lanes for Peterson, the closest thing the National Football League has to a Humvee in cleats. Favre rolled right and threw left over his body.
Favre pump-faked a short pass and threw long down the sideline to Bernard Berrian,
Favre did one of his trademark shuffles in the pocket, got hit, moved again, got hit, hurled the ball awkwardly off his backfoot to a receiver who was closely covered. As often as not in recent years, that pass would have been intercepted. Not this time.
Just six days shy of his 40th birthday, Favre produced one of the more memorable and emotional performances of his 18-year career. He managed the game well, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. In the huddle and on the sidelines, he he was grinning and joking. It was vintage Favre – a night in shoulder pads at Chuck E. Cheese.
The game didn't rest solely on his surgically repaired arm, of course.
Don't forget Jared Allen
The other star of the game for the Vikings was Jared Allen, the lanky defensive end with the metabolism of an Irish setter. Allen spent more time in the Packers backfield than Green Bay running back Ryan Grant. He was chasing quarterback Aaron Rodgers all night, overpowering whatever offensive lineman Green Bay would put up against him with his patented bull rushes.
Allen, who likes to pantomime a calf roping after each sack, staged his own rodeo. He ended up with a career-high 4.5 sacks, one of which was for a safety.
"We just wanted to come out here and be physical," Allen, an avid hunter who wears his hair in a mullet, said after the game.
It wasn't as if Allen's presence wasn't going to be known. Green Bay's offensive line has been banged up all year, which is one reason they had allowed a league-high 12 sacks going into last night's game. They gave up eight more last night and suffered further injuries. At one point, it looked like the Packers were going to have to put pads on the guy who flips the down markers to try to block Allen.
Vikings now 4-0
The Vikings are now in first place in the NFC North with a record of four wins and zero losses. Green Bay drops to 2-2. Still, it isn't as if the Vikings can rest on their knee pads. Rodgers threw for 384 passing yards and at times was moving the Packers down the field with impunity.
The Vikings will also have to figure out how to open up more lanes for Peterson.
Their running game can look monotonous: Peterson to the left behind Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson. Peterson to the left behind Hutchinson. Peterson to the left again. Hutchinson is good, but he can't take on all 11 guys of the opposing team, which it sometimes seems he has to, since it's so well known where the Vikings are going.
Still, Minnesota did open up their passing game more and pulled out an emotional – and important – win, one that is inspiring to the Norsemen masses of the Twin Cities – if not Sophocles.