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(Sunday, September 13th)
Final Score: Minnesota 34, Cleveland 20
Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - Adrian Peterson ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns and Brett Favre threw a touchdown pass to rookie wideout Percy Harvin, as the Vikings started out a very different 2009 season with a convincing 34-20 win over Cleveland.
Favre was a bit rusty early on, mostly completing underneath routes to members of the backfield and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. The grizzled veteran finished 14-of-21 for 110 yards and a six-yard TD toss to Harvin, who made three catches for 36 yards.
Peterson, though, stole the show with a bruising 64-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter after a pair of short TDs early on for the Vikings (1-0), who ended a three-year playoff drought in 2008.
"I haven't played with a running back like that. He's pretty awesome but I guess that's an understatement," Favre said of Peterson.
Minnesota wasn't the only team with a quarterback storyline heading into Sunday as Brady Quinn led Cleveland's offense, ending a rather poorly kept secret of who would quarterback the Browns in the opener.
First-year head coach Eric Mangini, who guided the Jets and Favre last season before being dismissed, chose to keep his decision secret until gametime, although the former Notre Dame standout could be seen leading the first-team offense in practice during the week.
The clandestine strategy did little to bolster a stagnant offense as Quinn ended 21-for-35 with 205 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception.
However, much of that damage came on the Browns' final possession -- a nine- play 80-yard drive capped by a 26-yard TD pass to tight end Robert Royal. It was the first offensive touchdown for Cleveland since Week 10 of the 2008 season on November 17.
Cleveland's other score came on special teams, when return man Josh Cribbs brought back a punt 67 yards to the end zone.
The Browns (0-1) went 4-12 under former coach Romeo Crennel last season and missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year.
Minnesota was facing a 13-10 deficit at halftime but came out firing in the second half, scoring on both of its first two series.
The biggest gain on the first scoring march came on a 16-yard pass interference call, but Favre managed the offense effectively, hitting Shiancoe for 13 yards on 3rd-and-10. Harvin also came out of the wildcat formation for an 11-yard gain. Peterson had three chances for the end zone from the Cleveland four and plunged in on 3rd-and-1 to give the visitors a 17-13 lead.
"I didn't see them stuffing the box that much. We knew what kind of defense we were facing," said Peterson. "We knew they would be giving us a couple different looks. It's more about how we execute."
Cedric Griffin picked off a deep ball from Quinn to regain possession and Favre helped orchestrate an 82-yard scoring drive in 13 plays. Eight of the calls were runs, but Favre connected with Harvin for 21 yards on 2nd-and-18 deep in Vikings territory and capped the drive with a six-yard TD pass to the versatile Harvin, Minnesota's first-round selection in this year's draft.
"Workmanlike, there were no blips," Vikings head coach Brad Childress said of Favre. "Not to make it sound like unspectacular was bad thing, but he made the routine plays routinely. I talk about that all the time."
The Browns' offense continued to misfire through the second half and Ryan Longwell's 37-yard field goal increased the margin to 27-13 with a shade under seven minutes left to play.
"It's hard to pinpoint right now but I think the change was an accurate assessment of what happened," stated Quinn. "We didn't do the things we needed to and personally I didn't take care of the ball like I needed to."
Peterson then put the game away for Minnesota with a 64-yard touchdown run that began off left tackle and took him up the near sideline. He crossed the goal line under a minute later for a comfortable 34-13 advantage.
"When you haven't played extended snaps together it takes a little time to play off each other. That is what a first game looks like," said Childress. "I'm happy to be able to get out of there with a win."
Childress elected to go with an unsuccessful onsides kick to start the game and Cleveland began its 2009 season at midfield.
The Browns quickly flashed a wildcat formation with Cribbs picking up five yards. Quinn then hit Royal for an 18-yard gain to the 22-yard-line, but the drive stalled as Phil Dawson kicked a 37-yard field goal.
That meant it was time for Favre to make his regular-season debut, but the much-anticipated beginning to his tenure wasn't exactly fluid as the Vikings went three-and-out.
On their next series, though, the Vikings moved 46 yards in 12 plays, and Longwell split the uprights from 21 yards out to tie the game. The Vikings put Harvin in motion in the backfield for an 11-yard run to reach the Browns three-yard-line, but Peterson was stuffed on the first two downs and Favre failed to connect with Sidney Rice on third-and-goal.
Favre and company were the recipients of terrific field position following a quick three-and-out by the Browns, and an 18-yard catch-and-run by Peterson set up his own one-yard score as Minnesota gained a 10-3 lead four minutes into the second quarter.
Cleveland responded with its first sustained drive of the game, a nine-play 73-yard movement that was not without controversy.
Quinn appeared to hit Braylon Edwards on a deep ball up the left sideline for a 34-yard touchdown. Childress challenged the play and it was overturned after replays showed Edwards had stepped out of bounds prior to the catch. In another twist, a pass interference call was levied on the Vikings and the Browns took over at the six. Three plays netted only five yards, though, including two wildcat runs by Cribbs. Dawson then converted a chip shot 20- yarder to cut the deficit to 10-6.
Minnesota sputtered on the next two possessions and punted from deep in its own territory, resulting in a 67-yard return by Cribbs for a touchdown to vault the Browns in front 13-10.
Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian, who was questionable for Sunday with a hamstring injury, suited but went without a catch...Minnesota has won the last four head-to-head meetings with Cleveland...The Browns have lost five straight season openers...Cleveland opened the season at home for the 11th straight campaign, the longest active streak in the league...Cribbs, a special teams Pro Bowl selection last season, has seven career return TDs.
09/13 18:28:13 ET