In end, Vikes' opener belonged to incomparable Peterson, not aging Favre

CLEVELAND -- They came in search of a rock star disguised as a football player. Fans. Media. Your basic curiosity seekers.

On Saturday night, they showed up at the Minnesota Vikings' hotel in larger numbers than usual. And on Sunday, at Cleveland Browns Stadium, they showed up in droves. They made the press box more crowded than it should be for a home team trying to pick up the pieces after a 4-12 season and with no real star power. They also formed significant pockets of purple in the stands.

All they wanted was to see one of the best and most dynamic players in the game. All they wanted was to witness the greatness that goes with his name and reputation.

And they got it.

As Adrian Peterson jogged off the field, he suddenly stopped in the end zone near the entrance to the visitor's tunnel, above which a whole bunch of fans in purple jerseys were yelling and screaming his nickname, "All Day," while excitedly jumping up and down. Peterson then removed each of his purple shoes -- the ones he wore while rushing for 180 yards and three touchdowns in Minnesota's 34-20 season-opening victory -- picked them up and tossed each into the crowd. The worshippers battled for them as if they were bars of gold. Finally, for good measure, Peterson flung his towel into the stands before disappearing into the tunnel.

"That is vintage Adrian," Vikings offensive guard Anthony Herrera said. "He's a quiet person, man, but he's one of the nicest guys. He'll give you the shirt off his back."

Or the shoes off his feet.

This was supposed to be Brett Favre's day. His second straight regular-season debut in a uniform other than the one he wore for 16 years in Green Bay was what attracted an inordinate amount of national press. It was what prompted so much buzz for a non-conference game that otherwise would have been largely treated with a yawn.

But in the end, it belonged to Peterson, just as so many Viking wins have since he joined them in 2007. He did what the greatest running back in the game is supposed to do, such as ripping off incredible runs like the 64-yarder for his third touchdown in the fourth quarter. He used his remarkable combination of size and speed to make five defenders miss on a play that he said would rank right up with the best he has made.

Adding to the Peterson legend is the fact that he did all this despite feeling weak and light-headed in the first half, but became "rejuvenated and recharged" for the final 30 minutes after getting an IV and gagging himself until he vomited. He also suffered a cut to his left forearm (he thinks from the clip of a chinstrap) that gushed blood before the Vikings' training staff closed it on the bench.

Funny, but Favre's day, which wasn't nearly as spectacular (14 of 21 for 110 yards) yet did include a short touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin, also started slowly.

"When (Favre) first got on the field, he seemed kind of nervous," Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams said. "But he calmed himself down and started handing the ball off to 'All Day.' And that's all you need."

It is.

The Vikings were good before Favre arrived. They had Peterson. They had an offensive line that was still strong despite two new starters. They had a dominant defense anchored by the dominant tackle duo of Pat and Kevin Williams.

Favre does just have to hand off ... and make the occasional play with a surgically repaired torn biceps and a still torn rotator cuff that aren't likely to become any less of a concern as he closes in on his 40th birthday. He might not necessarily make the Vikings a whole lot better, but that's how he can avoid making them worse.

Another way is to steer clear of the trademark Favre blunders that result from trying to pull off the impossible -- like heaving up a prayer with defenders draped all over him -- and he did a pretty decent job of that Sunday. He was solid while operating a safe, conservative game plan that had him mostly throwing short passes to his running backs and tight end. He did have a few errant throws, largely because he unretired for the second time after training camp and missed valuable practice time, and took some questionable sacks.

"Everyone in the stadium knows that Adrian Peterson is going to get it, and (the fact) he still gets 180 yards, I think that's remarkable," Favre said. "But, from a passing game standpoint ... there's a lot of chemistry yet to gain and we are doing it on the fly. The plays are very similar to what I've run in the past (because Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was his quarterbacks coach in Green Bay); it's how (our) guys run them."

His new teammates don't seem all that worried about Favre's ability to catch up in the passing game. They also don't seem to have a problem with him being on the team, which became fairly clear when he was elected one of the Viking captains. There is no sign of the reported division in the locker room after his arrival.

By all accounts, the other Minnesota players accept Favre because they believe he accepts his role as someone who has to be more of a manager than a gunslinger. The Cleveland game provided plenty of reinforcement on that count. Additionally, the rest of the offense appreciated the calming sense that a 19-year NFL veteran brings to the huddle.

"When stuff happens, some players go, 'Oh, my bad,' and he's just like, 'Let's just go to the next play ... we're not even going to think about that right now ... let's keep this drive alive,'" offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "Everybody has a lot of respect for him, and when he speaks, a lot of people listen. People take what he says to heart."

Still, one would assume that most Vikings players were just as curious as to how well Favre would perform in his first regular-season outing as the rest of us.

That's not necessarily the case, according to Herrera.

"Brett's Brett," he said. "That's like saying, 'Hey, Michael Jordan's coming to your team. You guys need to make sure he's Michael Jordan.' It's Michael Jordan. We just expected Brett to do what he did. He managed the game well. He made the plays when they needed to be made, he got us in the right plays when we needed them, and that's just what we expect out him.

"(Fans and media want) to see what No. 4 is going to do, they want to see if we can still run the ball the same way we usually do, and they want to see if our defense can still play. And we showed them we're still the Minnesota Vikings and we're going to do what we need to do. We still have some things to work on, but we got a good start."

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