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NFL: Favre is taking a pounding

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre has been sacked seven times in two games. That's five more wallops than an entire family of Mannings had suffered heading into Monday night's game in Miami.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre has been sacked seven times in two games. That's five more wallops than an entire family of Mannings had suffered heading into Monday night's game in Miami.

"Yeah, we need to do a better job of protecting Brett," center John Sullivan said earlier this week, fresh off the Vikings' 27-13 win over Detroit. "I'm happy we're 2-0, but Brett doesn't need to take this many big hits."

Favre has been sacked four more times than Tarvaris Jackson was through two games last season. At this pace, Favre would be sacked 56 times in 16 games, assuming he survived, of course. That would be 16 more than his career high, which, ironically, came in 1996 when he led the Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

"Protecting Brett is something we have to continue working on, across the board," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "Everybody always assumes it's just the offensive line. But it's all of us working to avoid sacks."

As coach Brad Childress explained, that includes linemen blocking, running backs picking up blitzes, receivers getting open and Favre getting rid of the ball on time. Childress said the Lions' three sacks Sunday were the result of three different breakdowns:

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n With 4 minutes, 12 seconds left in the first quarter and the Vikings facing second-and-nine from their 32-yard line, the tackles were pushed back too far. Jason Hunter, a backup left end playing for the injured Cliff Avril, simply beat rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt.

n On first-and-10 from the Vikings 38 with 11:21 left in the first half, fullback Naufahu Tahi was out of position to pick up middle linebacker Larry Foote when he blitzed between center and right guard.

n And on third-and-13 from the Vikings 26 with 3:36 left in the third quarter, Favre was caught holding the ball too long and was sacked by reserve end Andre Fluellen.

When Favre led the Packers to the NFC title game two years ago, he was sacked only 15 times in 535 attempts. That's about one sack per 36 attempts. He's reached almost half that total in only 48 attempts this season. That's one sack per seven attempts, which is a lot of punishment for a man in the twilight of his 39th year.

The Vikings rank 31st in sacks allowed per pass play going into Sunday's game against San Francisco. Only the Packers, who have given up 10 sacks in 67 attempts, rank lower.

The 49ers are 2-0, but their pass rush is average. They rank 19th in the league in sacks per pass play. They have four total, led by Ray McDonald, a backup right end in the 49ers' 3-4 defense, who has two.

In case you haven't noticed, the Vikings haven't attempted many deep passes in their first two games. Part of the reason is the nature of the West Coast offense being, as Childress explained, a "run-after-catch offense." Part of it is the defensive game plans for the Browns and Lions. And, oh yeah, part of it is the Vikings are 2-0 with a plus-28 point differential after consecutive road games to open the season.

Childress said Favre's arm is not a concern. He also was asked if he's worried the Vikings simply can't protect Favre long enough for him to take the traditional seven-step drop, especially with the unusually high number of all-out blitzes they're facing.

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"I'm not at all concerned," Childress said. "I'm concerned with the (sacks) we did give up and that we get those corrected. Also, I think you'd be remiss in saying you have to take a seven-step drop to throw the ball down the field." deep. That's . . . a misnomer as well."

Besides better communication and execution, Sullivan had a good suggestion for countering the "zero blitz," an aggressive ploy that rushes so many defenders that it leaves the deep middle uncovered.

"I think we saw four or five against Detroit," Sullivan said. "Cleveland ran some as well the week before. You have to recognize it and execute. But the best way to stop the zero blitz is to burn it a few times for touchdowns. It won't happen after that."

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