Playing at Dome not always easy
Vikings hope to make Rodgers’ life tough at Metrodome
By Mark Craig
McClatchy-Tribune News Services
MINNEAPOLIS — Brett Favre played the equivalent of a full NFL regular season inside the Metrodome.
He won four of his last five games there. He averaged 342.8 yards passing in his final four games there. And who can forget last season, when Favre broke the NFL record for career passing touchdowns in his last Minnesota appearance as a member of the Packers?
But it wasn’t always that easy for Favre. His success at the Metrodome took years to achieve. Six years, to be exact.
That’s something the Vikings are hoping Favre passes along to first-year starter Aaron Rodgers when the Packers play the Vikings on Sunday.
Rodgers comes to town with the league’s fifth-best passer rating (95.3), a 63.7 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and the confidence of a $63 million extension through 2014.
"Brett’s a legend," said Vikings safety and former Packer Darren Sharper. "Is (Rodgers) playing at a legendary status right now? I wouldn’t say that, but he’s playing as a top-flight quarterback in this league. ... He’s showing that he’s a reason why they let Brett Favre go."
Favre wasn’t a legend either on Dec. 27, 1992. It was his 13th NFL start and his first trip to the Metrodome.
He threw three interceptions, no touchdown passes, posted his lowest passer rating as a starter that year (43.4) and lost 27-7.
Favre would go on to lose his first five games at the Metrodome. In the first four losses, he threw eight interceptions, no touchdowns and didn’t have a passer rating above 49.1.
Even in 1996, a year the Packers won the Super Bowl, Favre lost for the fifth consecutive time at the Metrodome. The Packers were 13-3 that season. The Vikings were 9-7.
Rodgers’ NFL starting debut came 10 weeks ago against the Vikings at Lambeau Field. He was the picture of composure in completing 18 of 22 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also did something Favre wouldn’t have done: rush eight times for 35 yards and a touchdown.
"I thought he was very sharp in that first game," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I thought he was right on time with everything. I didn’t think there was any hesitation. You didn’t get the feeling like it was too big for him, or anything like that. It looks like he has a good command of exactly what (Packers coach) Mike (McCarthy) wants him to do."
As Favre discovered 17 years ago, there’s a difference between Lambeau Field and the Metrodome. Rodgers is well aware of that, having spent the past three seasons on the sideline watching.
Whether it’s his natural confidence or the fact the Packers won two of those games, Rodgers doesn’t seem nervous heading into this game. He was respectful of the Metrodome and the Vikings’ fans this week, but far from fearful.
"It’s hard to hear, it really is," Rodgers said. "Nothing is worse than the University of Oregon at Eugene. That’s the loudest place I’ve ever even possibly been in. I don’t think anything can ever pass that.
"Minnesota’s very loud. We’re going to have to be good with our communication, especially the nonverbal communication, but we’ve done that all season so it’s nothing new."
On Dec. 1, 1997, Favre visited the Metrodome for the sixth time. The Packers were 9-3. The Vikings were 8-4.
Favre had a modest game while completing 15 of 29 passes for 196 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. But Favre broke his Metrodome losing streak with a 27-11 victory.
If Rodgers follows the same path to success in Minnesota, he’ll get victory No. 1 in 2013, a year before that contract extension expires. The Vikings probably can live with that.