Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice races 63 yards on a pass from quarterback Brett Favre in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009, in Minneapolis. Rice had six receptions for 176 yards in the Vikings' 33-31 win.
Jim Mone / AP Enlarge
MINNEAPOLIS — As great as Brett Favre was Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback was pretty sure he wasn't good enough.
So sure that the Vikings were headed to their first defeat of the season, Favre couldn't even bear to watch as Baltimore kicker Steve Hauschka lined up for a 44-yard field goal with 2 seconds to play.
Yet thanks to Favre, receiver Sidney Rice and a whole lot of luck, the Vikings are 6-0.
Favre's 58-yard completion to Rice set up Ryan Longwell's fourth field goal, and Hauschka's kick was wide left at the final whistle, allowing the Vikings to remain undefeated, 33-31.
"I hate to say that I was not real confident because I'm confident in our team, period," said Favre, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. "But offensively, they probably just felt like, 'We could do whatever.'"
The game turned from blowout to nail-biter in a sensational final period, with the Ravens erasing a 17-point deficit with 10 minutes to play.
Joe Flacco threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens (3-3), who scored twice on drives that totaled just 56 seconds to take a 31-30 lead with 3:37 to play.
But Hauschka pushed his field goal try, and the Ravens' once-impenetrable defense has shown plenty of cracks in their three-game losing streak.
"It's tough for me," Hauschka said. "I feel like I let them down. That's something I have to live with."
The Ravens told Matt Stover, who had 14 game-winning kicks during a 19-year career with the original Browns and Ravens, that they were going in another direction. Stover was picked up by Indianapolis this week.
"We didn't lose that game because of Hauschka's miss," said Ravens running back Ray Rice, who had 117 yards receiving, 77 yards rushing and two touchdowns. "If we start fast and put points on the board, our defense starts fast, I think the game is a totally different outcome. But that's what happens when you play against great teams."
The Vikings took a 14-0 lead in the first 9 minutes and led 27-10 when Visanthe Shiancoe caught his second TD of the game with 10:08 to play. But Flacco was just getting started.
He threw a 32-yard TD to Mark Clayton. After a field goal by Longwell, Flacco capped a 49-second drive with a 12-yard TD to Derrick Mason, and it was 30-24.
Ray Lewis and the Ravens' proud defense came up with their first big stop all day, and Ray Rice's 33-yard run gave Baltimore its first lead 7 seconds after it got the ball back.
"We realize what kind of fighters we have in our locker room and that's what we're going to use the rest of the year," said Flacco, who helped the Ravens to the AFC championship game as a rookie last year. "I think we were 3-3 last year, not that that matters, but we can overcome anything."
Stunned and reeling, the Vikings turned to Favre — this was just the situation they signed him for two weeks into training camp. He pump-faked and unloaded to Minnesota's Rice, who beat Frank Walker for the 58-yard catch.
"We have been in this situation before and I had faith that we would make a play," said Sidney Rice, who had six catches for a career-high 176 yards.
But coach Brad Childress played it conservative with three straight runs, and Longwell's 31-yard field goal gave Flacco one more chance with 1:49 to go.
Childress called a timeout just before the final play to ice Hauschka, and he thought it may have been a mistake when he saw the youngster stumble on his approach for his initial kick.
"He kind of false-started himself and I was like, 'I wish I would have had that one before the timeout,'" Childress said. "But you've got to believe and I was telling Adrian (Peterson) right before the kick that we were going to win the game."
Peterson became the second running back in a row to top 100 against the Ravens' defense after Baltimore had gone 39 games not allowing one. He finished with 143 yards on 22 carries, but Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield left in the second quarter with a foot injury.
The Ravens have lost three in a row by a combined 11 points.
"Every game has been a game of inches," Ray Lewis said. "But for me, being in this business for so long, it just speaks volumes for our team in the way we fight, regardless of the circumstance we've been put in."<
Notes: There were no turnovers in the game. ... Flacco threw for 196 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter alone. ... Childress said Winfield asked to return to the game, but the Vikings played it safe by holding him out. Backup CB Karl Paymah struggled at times in his place. ... Vikings KR Percy Harvin aggravated a left shoulder injury in the fourth quarter. Childress said X-rays showed no more extensive damage than was already there.
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