Dome opener is Favre's first home game for Vikes 

Games indoors were often failures for Brett Favre in the early part of his career, particularly when his Green Bay Packers came to Minnesota's deafening dome.

More recently, though, Favre has played better inside than out, and that sure fits well with the Vikings.

Favre's first real game at the Metrodome as a member of the home team has arrived, a Sunday afternoon matchup with the also-unbeaten San Francisco 49ers. The 39-year-old quarterback can't wait to crouch behind center and finally be able to function without all those purple-clad fans yelling against him.

"I think it will be awesome," Favre said. "I am looking forward to it, especially after playing the first two games on the road. It will be nice to get back home."

He's barely been here a month, but he's already calling Minnesota home.

"From a chemistry standpoint and in the locker room, the newness has worn off," Favre said.

He hasn't completed a pass longer than 21 yards and he's still trying to figure out the fine points of the way his receivers run their routes. But these are the numbers that truly matter: Favre has three touchdown passes, no interceptions, two victories.

"I don't see a guy that rides a roller coaster from week to week," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He's a team guy, and he's a consummate team guy. As he has said to you and said to our team, he's got a history. He's got wins. He's got a Super Bowl ring. He's got money. He's here to win."

San Francisco coach Mike Singletary, the Hall of Fame middle linebacker whose final year with Chicago was also Favre's first with the Packers, is still getting to know his 49ers.

After an embarrassing start last season, Singletary's relentless, grueling attempt to shape his squad into a tough, gritty group just like those old Bears has begun to reap rewards. The Niners are 7-4 with Singletary in charge, including wins in their first two games of the year, and their 3-4 defense is developing into quite the stingy unit. Just ask Adrian Peterson. During his fruitful rookie season with Minnesota in 2007, Peterson was held to a career-low 3 yards on 14 rushes in a game at San Francisco.

"I think our guys understand that we are pretty decent," Singletary said. "We have a long ways to go before we can call ourselves a good football team. It's just a matter of continuing the work ethic, that's all."

The Niners might lead the league in that. They tuned up for the season with a seemingly endless series of two-a-day practice in full pads, a rarity in today's NFL.

"It was by far the toughest training camp I've been through," said quarterback Shaun Hill.

It must've worked for Hill, however, because the late bloomer beat out former first overall draft pick Alex Smith for the job. Hill hasn't thrown an interception yet, and he's improved his career record as a starter to 9-3.

His record through his first five years in the league? 0-0.

Undrafted out of Maryland in 2002 after working his way up to the starting spot there, Hill signed with Minnesota and was the third-stringer behind Daunte Culpepper and a bunch of backups — Todd Bouman, Gus Frerotte, Brad Johnson — for four years.

Then-coach Mike Tice, himself a former Terrapins quarterback, assumedly kept Hill with the Vikings for so long because of his affinity for fellow Maryland alumni. Hill never threw a pass in a regular-season game for Minnesota and was out of work until June 2006, when he joined the 49ers.

"I had spoke to my agent about possibly plan B. We didn't come up with a good one," Hill said, laughing.

Taking advantage of Smith's struggles and shoulder problem, though, Hill has seen his patience and education on the sport's most complex position pay off. If he's branded as one of those manage-the-game guys who's mostly asked to hand off, get enough first downs, and stay away from costly turnovers to let the defense go to work, well, Hill can't worry about that.

"Those are things that every quarterback that is going to win needs to do," he said. "I don't know why it's different for me, but I suppose it is. Whatever it takes to get a W, that's all I care to do."

Singletary sounds as if he's not completely sold yet.

"Hopefully we don't have to have a quarterback here in position to just take us and put us on his back and take us down the field," Singletary said. "I believe that what he's doing right now has been good enough the first two games. ... We're going to have to run the ball, and as we run the ball and Shaun Hill makes some plays here and there and as he gets more comfortable, he can open it up a bit. That's what's going to have to start happening. I believe he will do that."

Favre has a long history of putting teams on his back, but he signed with the Vikings because he wouldn't have to do that. Despite eyebrow-raising slow starts at Cleveland and Detroit, Minnesota has been good enough to blow out the Browns and Lions. They're again relying on their deep, experienced, potentially dominant defense to keep the score low, and on Peterson to wear out opponents.

Favre just needs to be steady, stay healthy and connect on a few long throws. After going 2-9 in his first 11 games at the Metrodome, Favre finished 4-1 there with the Packers. Vikings season-ticket holders are eager for their first in-person opportunity to watch Favre's new formula at work.

"I know what it's like playing in this place as the enemy," Favre said. "So they will make it as tough on the opposing team as possible."

Favre hopes to do the same.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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