Notebook: Shiancoe a key to beating blitzes

The Vikings are expecting a heavy dose of blitzes from the Eagles defense, and that could mean more of an opportunity for TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who had his best game last season against the Eagles. See what Shiancoe had to say about that, along with other Vikings-Eagles notes.

Visanthe Shiancoe has spent a good part of this season talking about how he turned his performance around after a dismal 2007, his first season with the Vikings.

On Sunday, Shiancoe will get to revisit the team against which he had his best performance in 2007. On Oct. 28 last year, Shiancoe had a then-career-high five receptions for 50 yards and his first touchdown as a Viking.

"(The Eagles) play a lot of man, so all I have to do is beat that one man. It doesn't matter (who), a linebacker is the same thing as a safety to me," he explained this week after his usual post-practice routine of catching several dozen more passes in awkward positions to help improve his receiving skills.

After his first season in purple following his free-agent signing in 2007, Shiancoe was on the verge of being considered a bust. He had dropped passes too often to start his Vikings career, but he hesitates to talk about the past. He'd rather enjoy this season, his best as a pro by far.

He led the NFC and tied for second in the NFL with seven touchdown receptions in 2008, leaving him just one shy of the Vikings' single-season record of eight by Joe Senser in 1981. This year, Shiancoe has a career-high 42 receptions for a career-high 596 yards and is averaging 14.2 yards per catch.

All of that helps make him an important piece of the Vikings' hopes Sunday against a blitz-happy Eagles defense.

"That whole NFC East, they blitz, blitz, blitz and have man behind it. We're going to expect some feistiness," Shiancoe said.

He would appear to be right. Vikings coach Brad Childress estimated that the New York Giants blitzed 80 percent of the time on Sunday, and the Vikings are expecting more of the same this Sunday in their wild card game against Philadelphia.

"That just means we're going to have to quicken up some routes. We're going to have to make some hot breaks or run the ball a little bit so we can stop them from blitzing so much – get them with some big hits," Shiancoe said. "They didn't blitz as much last year, but right now it's almost the same thing – about 80 percent blitz. They blitz a lot."

He said NFL defenses usually blitz about 30 to 40 percent of time. Childress figured it more around 50 percent of the time. Either way, the modus operandi with the Eagles is to go much higher with their percentage of blitzes. "They blitz, blitz, blitz, especially against us because we're a running team," Shiancoe said.

He should know. He's faced the Eagles 10 times in his career, although his most successful outing by far came as a member of the Vikings last year. In total, Shiancoe has 12 catches in 10 games against the Eagles, an NFC East foe of Shiancoe and his former team, the New York Giants, during his first four seasons in the league.

"The Eagles, they're really good in the playoffs. They're a playoff team. They manage ways to get in the playoffs and they play good in the playoffs. They're going to play their defense just like the Giants," he said.

The Giants came after third-year pro Tarvaris Jackson often last week, but Shiancoe isn't convinced it's a tactic they used just because Jackson is relatively young in his NFL career.

"He's getting beyond that. They're not seeing him as a younger quarterback as much as they did before," Shiancoe said. "They've got to respect his game and his poise and composure."

Most all, Shiancoe says, the Eagles have to be aware of the Vikings' running game. That, he says, is the key to getting the passing game going against Philadelphia.

"To get our passing game going, we have to get our running game going and to really hit them within that blitz with a big hit. It will slow that blitz down," he said. "If we keep on hitting them with that blitz, they're going to stop doing it. Nobody wants to keep getting hit with big plays."

Last year against the Eagles, running back Adrian Peterson had 20 rushes for 70 yards, but Eagles head coach Andy Reid said Peterson is a better player now.

"He has a better understanding of the whole picture right now, the whole thing, whether it's defenses in the NFL, their offense, the guys in front of him that are blocking for him," Reid said. "He's a better football player than he was at that time, or has a better understanding of the game."

A.D. NOT THE MVP

Peterson was expected to be a top candidate for the NFL's voting on the Associated Press MVP this year. He led the league in rushing yards with 1,760, but he also led all running backs with nine fumbles, which could be a primary reason that Peterson didn't win the award, announced on Friday.

"When I come into the season, I set goals for myself," Peterson said. "Hopefully they come along the journey through the season. If not, then hey, just focus on what's in front of us. I'm hoping to get that opportunity to try for that again."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning became the second three-time winner of the award, which is voted on by 50 media members covering the NFL. Manning joined Brett Favre as the only three-time winners of the award.

Manning dominated the voting, garnering 32 votes, while Peterson only tied for fourth with Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison with three votes. Miami quarterback Chad Pennington and Atlanta running back Michael Turner – who finished second to Peterson in rushing yards – were the runners-up with four votes apiece.

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers received two votes, while Tennessee running back Chris Johnson and Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner each received one.

NOTES

  • DE Ray Edwards (knee) is out for Sunday's game against the Eagles. NT Pat Williams (shoulder) is questionable. WR Bernard Berrian (ankle) and OT Artis Hicks (elbow) are probable. Edwards didn't participate in Friday's practice, Williams and Hicks were limited, and Berrian had full participation.

    "The No. 1 thing will be, can he protect himself?" Childress said of Williams. "Can he play the way he needs to without having to hide something?"

    Childress confirmed again that Ryan Cook will start and Artis Hicks will back up along the offensive line if he plays.

  • DE Victor Abiamiri (foot) and G/T Shawn Andrews (back) are out for the Eagles. OT Jon Runyan (knee), TE L.J. Smith (shoulder), RB Brian Westbrook (knee/ankle) and CB Asante Samuel (hip) is questionable. LB Stewart Bradley (rib/groin) WR Hank Baskett (knee), WR Kevin Curtis (calf), FS Brian Dawkins (back) and G/T Todd Herremans (shoulder/ankle) is probable.

  • The Eagles this year have the best pass-play-to-sack ratio in team history, getting sacked once every 27.3 pass plays.

    "If you look at their sack numbers, 23 sacks, it's way low," Childress said. "It's kind of because of a bunch of different reasons: quick game, their athletes, good protection. (Donovan McNabb is) not going to get caught with the ball in his hand, maximum protection. He's not going to get caught with the ball very often. I always say it's an art to learn how to throw it away and he's done a good job of doing that."


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