It didn't take long for Sunday's Metrodome crowd to find another target of their frustration. With quarterback Tarvaris Jackson benched in favor of veteran Gus Frerotte, it was only two plays into the Vikings' first drive of the game that the crowd had an undercurrent of "boo" to it.
Frerotte dropped to pass, saw tight end Visanthe Shiancoe working a vertical seam in the middle of the field and threw him a strike. But, as Shiancoe started to gather the ball in and turn upfield, he was hit by cornerback Chris Gamble and the ball popped loose for an incompletion.
"(Stuff) happens. Just like at any position, you make a bad play. The good thing about football is that you can come back and make a big play," Shiancoe said. "It's a long game. There are a lot of plays."
He's had to maintain that attitude through some difficult times since arriving in Minnesota as a free agent in 2007. He has become known more for his dropped passes and fumbles than for his versatility and ability to find production in the defensive seams, which is why the Vikings figured he could become an important part of their West Coast Offense.
"He's played that card – get hit and drop the ball," head coach Brad Childress said.
"Some of those have been pretty good licks. The ground has caused a couple of them. I just think it's important – it's no different than handing it to a running back who has just fumbled it – to show that you have confidence. You don't just shy away or turn your head and cower and have a guy not meet your eyes. You go back to him if you have an opportunity. He's been in the right place. He'll continue to make plays down the field."
Through the dropped touchdowns – the last of which came last week and had many in the local and national media wondering if Jackson would have held onto his starting job if Shiancoe had made the catch – had started to weigh on the tight end, but he has tried to keep a yeomen approach to the situation.
"You're always trying to correct, so you're always self-reflecting to see what went wrong, what you could have done different to make the outcome on our side. You try to have a short memory, but of course (the mistakes) are always tapping on your shoulder," he said.
"I always put the blame on myself, me. I don't care if it skims off my damn index finger, I feel like somehow, someway I need to come down with the ball."
It took a half of a football game for Shiancoe to find his redemption Sunday, but he capped the first drive of the second half with a 34-yard touchdown reception. It came on a crossing route in which he caught the ball and caught a solid downfield block from Bobby Wade to easily make it to the end zone. The tight end seemed to savor the moment before letting all the frustration go with a forceful spike of the ball.
"That was probably one of the longest weeks of my career," Shiancoe said of dealing with a dropped touchdown last week that might have made the difference in an 18-15 loss to Indianapolis. "My team rallied around me, coaches, everything – they gave me that confidence."
"The game of football, you have to have a short memory because if you dwell on that, it will mess you up. … My eye was right above water," Shiancoe said, as if he was nearly drowning."
This time, he was able to tread enough water and hear and the boos turn to cheers for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in a 20-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"That's what we all want to do. I feel as professionals, in the time of adversity, we need to step up. Somebody needs to step up."
Finally, it was Shiancoe's time.
Shiancoe finds modicum of redemption
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