The hair on Brett Favre's head looks just a little grayer these days.
His passes don't seem quite as precise as they once were and the magic that he created in his first season with the Minnesota Vikings — both on the field and in the locker room — has been conspicuously absent.
Such is the pall cast by an 0-2 start for a team that expects to contend for the Super Bowl.
With injuries to his favorite receivers and a more challenging schedule than the welcome mat that was rolled out for him last season, Favre and the Vikings offense have failed to continue the roll that took them all the way to the NFC championship game last season.
The Vikings have scored 19 points combined in losses to New Orleans and Miami after averaging nearly 30 points in the regular season in 2009. They have already lost a game at home — 14-10 to the Dolphins on Sunday — after going 9-0 in the Metrodome last year and Favre is coming off a performance in which he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the end zone that led to one of Miami's two touchdowns on the day.
Simply put, it's not how he envisioned things starting when he decided to return for a 20th NFL season.
"I don't want to raise red flags," Favre said on Thursday. "We gotta get on the same page, because we're 0-2. We gotta find a way to get this thing going. I gotta make better decisions. I gotta play better."
It would be hard to ask him to do more than he did last season, which he calls the best of his brilliant career. Favre threw for more than 4,200 yards with 33 TDs and seven interceptions, finishing with a career-high 107.2 rating.
Everything seemed to come astonishingly easy for him, even though he turned 40 in October and had surgery to fix a torn biceps muscle in his throwing arm before the season started.
The encore has been far more difficult.
Sidney Rice is out for at least another month after having hip surgery. Percy Harvin missed nearly all of the preseason with migraines and is now bothered by a strained right hip. Center John Sullivan is still working himself back into full playing shape after missing the preseason with a calf injury.
Favre is throwing to a receiving group that includes Greg Camarillo, who was brought in with a trade from Miami in late August and journeyman Hank Baskett, who was just signed on Wednesday to add depth.
"Right now, we're kind of grasping at straws trying to figure out things," Favre said. "I think we, me included, can get on the same page even better."
Favre said on Thursday that he's still "not really sure who I'm throwing to on particular plays" and admitted that "If I sat here and told you that I knew exactly what we're doing right now I'd be lying."
The lack of continuity and production early in the season has Favre reverting to gunslinger mode, sometimes trying to force things that aren't there and squeezing the ball into spaces that are too tight for comfort.
That mentality led to two of his interceptions on Sunday, one that was thrown into double coverage deep down the field while he was trying to hook up with Bernard Berrian. The other came on a back shoulder throw to Berrian at the goal line.
"I've got to err a little more with caution on some of these decisions," Favre said. "And history has shown with me that when we're struggling a little bit, I try to press the issue and try to make something happen. I think that's what's made me the quarterback I am and has benefited me throughout my career. But it's also hurt me. It's hard to be patient and try to get this puzzle pieced together."
Keeping everyone on an even keel is the job of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who has known Favre for years dating back to their years together in Green Bay. It's a constant point of emphasis, Bevell said, to assure Favre that he doesn't have to do everything himself.
"He's always got the one guy on (his left shoulder) telling him what to do. I try to be the guy on the other side to settle him down and continue to remind him that this is not one man versus 11," Bevell said. "He's got those guys out there. He's got to let them do their jobs. He doesn't need to get out of the box. He doesn't need to have out-of-body experiences. Just trust the system and we'll make sure the guy on the other end is making plays for him."
To hear Favre tell it, the Vikings may be a little more conservative on Sunday against the Detroit Lions (0-2). It just might have to be that way until he gets a clear picture of each receiver's ability and skill set.
"I think moreso now than last year, when things are not going exactly like you would like them to go, that's when the stress really builds," Favre said. "If you're not careful, you press too much. There is a fine line. Getting to it is always difficult."
(This version CORRECTS Corrects the day Baskett signed to Wednesday.)