Tarvaris Jackson steps in for injured Brett Favre to lead Vikings to rout of Bills
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brett Favre's consecutive games played streak could be in trouble again, with his unparalleled 20-year career probably down to the final four weeks.
The NFL's all-time iron man sprained his throwing shoulder severely enough Sunday that he didn't even try to talk his way back into the game. Still, at age 41 with Minnesota essentially out of playoff contention, Favre wasn't ready to declare himself done for good.
The Vikings, with new life under interim coach Leslie Frazier, haven't conceded yet either.
Tarvaris Jackson threw two touchdown passes to Sidney Rice in relief after Favre was hurt on the first series, Adrian Peterson rushed for three touchdowns on a sprained ankle and the Vikings rolled over the Buffalo Bills 38-14.
"Can you be effective if you play?" was the question Favre said he'll ask himself next week. "If the answer is yes, if I think I can, I would love to play and see this through."
Without All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson (thumb) or standout wide receiver Percy Harvin (illness), the Vikings (5-7) outgained the Bills 387-239 and turned Frazier's first home game since replacing the fired Brad Childress into a fun time under the roof on a frigid afternoon outside.
Jackson threw three interceptions but after Drayton Florence returned the first one for a touchdown, he led the Vikings to touchdowns on their next four possessions for a 28-7 lead to put the game away before halftime. Jackson finished 15 for 22 for 187 yards, plus two runs for 22 yards.
So what's the story for next Sunday's game against the playoff-chasing New York Giants?
"No quarterback controversy," Frazier said.
Favre was diagnosed with a sprained sternoclavicular joint in his throwing shoulder. The SC joint is located where the collarbone meets the breastbone. An X-ray showed no broken bones and he is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday. If Favre is healthy, he'll make his NFL-record 298th straight start.
"Hopefully that'll be the case, but we'll wait and see what happens," Frazier said.
Since Frazier, who interviewed for the Bills coaching position last winter that went to Chan Gailey, was promoted from defensive coordinator the Vikings defense has given up only two touchdowns and 455 total yards over two games.
Peterson, who was listed as questionable this week and looked a little gimpy during pregame warmups, pounded the league's most porous run defense for 107 yards on 16 carries including a 43-yard scamper for a score.
Frazier said the decision on whether to play the All-Pro was "real close," but Jackson just laughed -- saying "he's not human, man" -- when asked how his teammate was able to heal so quickly after getting hurt last week.
"I was brainwashing myself the whole week, putting it in my mind that, 'I'm going to play, I'm going to play, I'm going to play,' " Peterson said.
Favre might have to use a similar technique to get himself ready.
"I'm not overly concerned right now. I'm just going to see what the MRI says," he said.
Although the Bills (2-10) have been vastly improved over the last month or so, they reverted to early-season form and suffered another blowout. They turned the ball over five times and had three personal foul penalties.
"Obviously I didn't do a good job of preparing our football team for what they were getting into coming in here," Gailey said.
Looking like the Pro Bowl player he was last year, Rice jumped over Leodis McKelvin to grab a 31-pass up the sideline from Jackson and wrestle the ball away in the end zone late in the first quarter.
McKelvin fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Vikings scored in four plays on a 2-yard push by Peterson set up by a pass interference penalty on McKelvin.
Antoine Winfield intercepted an under-pressure pass by Fitzpatrick on third-and-11 midway through the second quarter and returned it to the 5 to set up Rice's second score.
Fitzpatrick has injected some much-needed life into the Bills offense, with a couple of 300-yard, four-touchdown games since replacing Trent Edwards as the starter in September, but this was a step back with just 9 yards passing in the first half.
Fitzpatrick faced a relentless pass rush led by Jared Allen, who slapped the ball out of his arm on the first play of the fourth quarter for Buffalo's fourth turnover. The fifth was a fumbled snap by Fitzpatrick on third-and-goal from the 1.
"I didn't play well enough. We just didn't get anything going all day," Fitzpatrick said.
Favre's injury further exposed the lack of a future plan for the Vikings at the game's most critical position, with Jackson about to be a free agent and rookie third-stringer Joe Webb also raw and perhaps more valuable as a wide receiver. With three wide receivers unable to play, Webb was on the active 45-man list for the first time and returned the opening kickoff 30 yards in Harvin's place.
He hurt his hamstring on the punt return team a few minutes later, though, leaving Jackson as the only option left. Favre said he could've gone in for handoffs, but that was it.
"We had a couple alterations, but none that I'd like to share today," Frazier said.
Frazier said he told Harvin, who was bothered again this week by migraine headaches, to stay home and rest. ... Webb said the coaches told him to expect some time at both QB and WR. "I can't tell you everything because we had a couple surprises," he said. ... Injuries forced the Bills to use three different centers. Starter Geoff Hangartner (knee) left the game, as did Kraig Urbik (knee) later on a cart. Gailey said both players were probably lost for the season, and left guard Andy Levitre moved over at the end. Urbik had started at right guard for Eric Wood (ankle), who was on the inactive list. ... Florence's first career touchdown was also Buffalo's first interception return for a score since Donte Whitner's on Sept. 20, 2009, a streak of 25 games. Whitner also had an interception, late in the third quarter on a downfield heave into double coverage as Jackson was hit. ... Bills LB Paul Posluszny had 15 tackles and a sack.
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