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Favre hurt, but Vikings roll over Bills

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MINNEAPOLIS | Brett Favre's consecutive games played streak could be in trouble again if his sprained shoulder doesn't get better by next weekend.

The Vikings have found a groove under interim head coach Leslie Frazier, however, regardless of who's at quarterback.

Tarvaris Jackson threw two touchdown passes to Sidney Rice in relief after Favre hurt his shoulder on the first series, Adrian Peterson rushed for three touchdowns on a sprained ankle and the Vikings rolled over the Buffalo Bills 38-14 on Sunday.

With All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson (thumb) and wide receiver Percy Harvin (illness) out, the Vikings (5-7) outgained the Bills 387-239 and gave Frazier a fun afternoon on his first home game since replacing the fired Brad Childress.

The Vikings are 2-0 under Frazier, who interviewed for the Bills head coaching position last winter that went to Chan Gailey.

Frazier didn't hesitate to declare that Favre is still the starting quarterback if he's healthy enough to play.

The question about returning to the field, Favre said, wasn't about whether he wanted to endure the pain but whether he could be effective. Which he couldn't on Sunday.

"That's saying a lot for me," Favre said, leaving his status for the next game against the New York Giants uncertain.

Jackson threw three interceptions but after Drayton Florence returned the first one for a touchdown, Jackson led the Vikings to touchdowns on their next four possessions to put the game away before halftime.

Jackson, finished 15 for 22 for 187 yards, smiled when asked whether he thought Favre was too beat up to start next week.

"He's played 15,000 games straight now, so he'll probably play 15,001 next week," Jackson said.

Peterson, who was listed as questionable this week, rushed 16 times for 107 yards against the league's most porous run defense including a 43-yard score.

Although the Bills (2-10) have played better recently, they reverted to early season form and suffered another blowout. They turned the ball over five times for 14 Vikings points and had three personal foul penalties.

The complexion of the game changed quickly when Favre, inching forward for more room in the pocket, was flattened by a jarring hit from Arthur Moats that forced the ball to float slowly in the air.

Florence picked it off, and Favre walked off the field with his throwing shoulder sagging slightly.

Jackson, booed by the fans here in a preseason game in August as well as a few times during his struggles as a starter in 2007 and 2008, drew cheers when he jogged out for the next possession.

He sent a pass to Greg Camarillo on a simple out pattern that Florence read perfectly and jumped for a 40-yard touchdown, but with hardly any time to think about the mistake Jackson came right back and went 4 for 4 for 76 yards and the tying score on the next drive.

Rice's nine-game absence following hip surgery was one of a constant stream of setbacks, dropoffs and letdowns the Vikings faced between their loss in the NFC championship game last January and the firing of Childress two weeks ago.

Looking like the Pro Bowl player from last year, Rice jumped over Leodis McKelvin to catch a 31-pass up the sideline from Jackson and wrestled the ball away as he landed his torso in the end zone before rolling out. The initial call was incomplete, but Frazier challenged the play and the ruling was reversed.

McKelvin fumbled the ensuing kickoff, when Tyrell Johnson punched the ball out at the 19. The Vikings scored in four plays, on a 2-yard push by Peterson set up by a pass interference penalty on McKelvin.

Antoine Winfield, who began his 12-year career with the Bills, intercepted an under-pressure pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick on third-and-11 midway through the second quarter and returned it to the 5 to set up another highlight-reel catch by Rice for Minnesota's fourth straight touchdown. He ran a crossing pattern and pulled in the ball with both hands near the side edge as he hit the ground, putting the Vikings up 28-7.

Fitzpatrick has injected some much-needed life into a Bills offense that hasn't had any for years, with a couple of 300-yard, four-touchdown games since replacing Trent Edwards as the starter in September.

This was one of his worst performances of the season, 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 Fitzpatrick's 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.

 

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