Notebook: Shiancoe battles injury, history

Visanthe Shiancoe battled through rib and thigh injuries and set a team record for tight ends. One of the best performances of his career came against his former team. The Vikings also made some adjustments on defense and generally got their momentum back.

Visanthe Shiancoe became the most prolific touchdown-catching tight ends in Vikings history, at least for one season.

All he had to do was fight through a thigh injury that nearly kept him out of his first game this season and cracked ribs that have made it painful for him to take big hits. With those injuries still on the mend, the team's first-round playoff bye may be as important to Shiancoe as any other Vikings player.

"They didn't want to push it too hard because they most likely wanted to preserve me," Shiancoe said of him being able to play in Sunday's finale, which required a pregame proving session. "I went out there with (head athletic trainer Eric) Sugarman, and (offensive coordinator Darrell) Bevell was out there, and they watched me run routes and they had me run a couple full-speed routes. It passed."

So did Shiancoe's performance. He tied for the team lead in the game with seven receptions and had 94 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 56 catches for 556 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The fact that one his better performances came against his old team, the New York Giants, was fine by Shiancoe. He didn't think his receiving skills surprised his old team.

"No, they've seen me up there. They know. They drafted me first day coming in. I averaged like 25 yards a catch in college. They knew," Shiancoe said. "I was just in a different situation, predicament, out there with the Giants. I was behind a Pro Bowler (Jeremy Shockey). I had to play my role and that's what I did. Four years of preserving my body, so I think it's a blessing in its own."

In New York, Shiancoe was known as a blocking tight end. He had 35 catches in four seasons with the Giants. His season low with the Vikings is 27, which was in 2007, his first year with the team, and he's improved every year since.

Last year, he caught 42 passes for 596 yards and seven touchdowns. This year featured more catches, less yardage and more touchdowns. His 11 touchdowns helped contributed to the second-best scoring season in Vikings history.

"It's spreading around the ball. Everybody is eating. It's really keeping the defense on their heels and they don't know what to expect," Shiancoe said. "If we can just keep that going, I feel this offense can just continue this smorgasbord of points and yards."

"We got our mojo back, I feel. I just hope it continues."

The same could be said for Shiancoe, who had a season-high 94 yards and nearly had the second 100-yard game of his career. He had seven catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns against Atlanta in 2008.

His 2009 season didn't earn him Pro Bowl recognition, but it was one of the best by a Vikings tight end and ranked up there among NFL tight ends. His 11 touchdowns tied for seventh in the league all-time for the position – the record is 13, shared by Antonio Gates (2004) and Vernon Davis (2009). Shiancoe nearly had another touchdown on Sunday, but couldn't corral a pass in the end zone that he said was tipped. It would have put him in a third-place tie for touchdowns in a season among NFL tight ends and given him the second 100-yard game of his career, but he's happy with the way he is being used.

"We evolve with the times. Whatever is successful for that offense, that's what tight ends are going to do," Shiancoe said. "To create a vertical wide-receiving threat with the tight end creates so much opportunity for our offense. If you're a wide receiving threat along with a blocking threat, that's just incredible."


Adrian Peterson started the game, but it wasn't until the Vikings' third series that he touched the ball. Chester Taylor got two rushes in the first two series, but Peterson didn't touch the ball until the second play of the third series, which was a 5-yard loss. He rebounded for a 23-yard run three plays later and finished the game with nine rushes for 56 yards (6-yard average) and one catch for one yard.

"We just had a little different setup and things that we could start with that would work," Vikings coach Brad Childress said of Peterson's early absence. "There is no magic to that, just luck of the draw on how we were attacking the defense."

Taylor finished with seven rushes for 12 yards, and third running back Albert Young saw his most extensive action of the year, getting 10 rushes for 40 yards.


The Vikings made a few moves in the secondary. Because of Antoine Winfield's foot injury, Benny Sapp started at left tackle and Winfield played in nickel situations.

"He's a great player at the nickel position – that's all it was," Childress said. "They have a good slot receiver. Steve Smith is probably your prototypical slot guy and we wanted Antoine to get on him."

Smith had a game-high 10 catches and became the first Giants receiver to top 100 catches in a season (he had 107), but he was limited to 57 yards receiving against the Vikings.

The Vikings also used safety Jamarca Sanford, their seventh-round draft choice as an occasional sub for starter Tyrell Johnson.

"We wanted to get Jamarca in there a little bit and get his feet wet. He has done a good job with the snaps that he's had," Childress said. "He's played extremely well, and continued to play extremely well today on special teams. He's a good ball player, a good hitter."

Childress said he hasn't thought about making a switch to Sanford as a starter.


For a six-quarter stretch in December, during the entire Panthers game and the first half of the Bears game, the Vikings scored just seven points. Then in the second half against the Bears last Monday night, they exploded for 30 points, and by the time Brett Favre left in third quarter Sunday the Vikings had a 41-0 lead.

"Last week's game, the second half, everyone after the game made the comments that, ‘This is what we are capable of doing. This is what we have been doing. We can put it together. If we can put it together in a complete game, imagine.'" Favre said. "And we've done that this year. That's what people have come to expect from us, including ourselves. So when we did not play up to par, obviously question marks were raised, not only from everyone else, but including ourselves."

Despite Favre having one of his best seasons, he knows that a good postseason run is needed to validate his season.

"It definitely would help. I'm not going to lie to you, the only reason was to get to Miami, and I'm talking about the second game," he said. "I know that it goes hand-in-hand with how I play; how we all play obviously."


"To kick some ass, you have to bring some ass. Our guys did a good job of bringing it." – Vikings coach Brad Childress.

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