Here are five things we learned from watching the Jets belt the Vikings at new Meadowlands Stadium.
1. LaDainian Tomlinson is moving into the fringe of the MVP conversation. It is rare that running backs north of age 30 reinvent themselves, but the 31-year-old Tomlinson is maybe the greatest revelation of the young 2010 season. For every Marcus Allen, who averaged 4.3 yards a carry as a 35-year-old Kansas City Chief, there have been hundreds more who looked lost searching for a rebirth in a different uniform (think Franco Harris with the Seahawks or Tony Dorsett with the Broncos). Tomlinson entered Monday night's game against the Vikings averaging 6.1 yards a carry. He gained 94 more yards on 20 carries (4.7 yards per attempt) against Minnesota.
After fighting through injuries at the end of his stay in San Diego, Tomlinson is healthy and dancing through the holes being created by the bulldozing Jets' offensive line. Tomlinson's vision, shiftiness and speed could always be counted on during his heyday in San Diego. The Jets might ride his rejuvenated legs deep into the postseason.
2. Brett Favre can't survive the season. Can he? Though he came to life in the second half against the Jets before throwing a game-ending interception, Favre is getting battered in 2010. In years past, Favre could always count on his movement and strength to get up from the inevitable shots a quarterback takes, but what's going to happen when Ndamukong Suh and Clay Matthews Jr. get a few more licks on him? It took three Vikings veterans and a private plane to get Favre back to Minnesota this season -- and we're starting to see why.
Favre said the tendinitis in his throwing elbow is as bad as it's been this season. (He wore a white sleeve on the elbow after the game.) After his remarkable 2009 (33 TDs/7 INTs), Favre understood how hard it would be for him and Minnesota to duplicate that run. Like any great but aging athlete, the glimpses of the former self occasionally flicker. But at 41 --and on a 1-3 team -- this season appears headed for a disappointing finish. Even Randy Moss's presence won't be enough.
3. Mark Sanchez must make better decisions. Seems harsh saying that about a player who has yet to throw an interception this season, but the young Jets QB continues to be the biggest question mark on an otherwise deep and talented team. Against the Vikings, Sanchez's play was spotty, especially in the red zone. The more the field shrinks, the less comfortable Sanchez (191 yards passing, zero TDs) seems to be. Only some butterfingers in the Minnesota secondary kept Sanchez from throwing his first (and, possibly second) interception of the year.
The best news for the Jets: They don't need Sanchez to be great to reach the Super Bowl. But he has to be solid, and he wasn't Monday night.
4. Santonio Holmes didn't take long to become a threat in the Jets offense. Holmes, who lost the opening four games of the season to suspension, was targeted nine times by Sanchez, catching three passes for 41 yards. While those numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, Holmes was in Sanchez's vision all night, even if the quarterback couldn't always find him. The body control that made Holmes the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII has not deserted him.
"Everything was on point," Holmes said after the game. "The coaches allowed me to do as much as I could."
5. The allegations against Brett Favre appear to be weighing on the quarterback. Favre denied the NFL investigation into whether he sent lewd photos to a Jets employee is affecting him in any way, but he looked especially downtrodden following Minnesota's defeat. It's fair to wonder how the investigation will affect Favre and the Vikings going forward. As he dressed in front of his locker early Tuesday morning, Favre asked a member of the Vikings' public relations staff to turn off the television sets in the locker room.
The TVs were showing highlights of the game. Who knows what else they might have shown? Asked if the allegations against him were true or false, Favre said he only wanted to talk about the game. He looked like a beaten man.