Visanthe Shiancoe thinks he knows the precise play that turned around the Vikings offensive doldrums. In the tight end's estimation it was a hit that Adrian Peterson took.
"I think it changed when Adrian had that hit out of bounds (against Chicago). I think that that was the spark that set it off, that set that tempo up. I guess we needed something to spark us or get us a little excited," Shiancoe said. "It showed, man. We put up 30 points in one damn half. We put up 24 in one quarter last game. We can play now."
The Vikings offense showed it could play for most of the season, actually. Brett Favre had passed for 250 yards or more for five straight games, but even in a 30-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in their 13th game of the season, the passing offense managed only 180 yards. In their third loss of the season, a 26-7 drubbing by the Carolina Panthers in the 14th game, they managed only 196 yards passing. It got even worse in the first half of the Chicago Bears game the next week. They had only 82 total net yards and only 29 net yards passing.
But after being down 16-0 at halftime, the Vikings poured it on in the second half. They had 343 net yards in the third and fourth quarters and overtime, including 271 passing.
"The last six quarters are what we expect of ourselves. I don't know what it was – sometimes it's hard to put your finger on it – but we got our sense of urgency back," receiver Sidney Rice said. "The coaches are calling great plays and we're executing, and our playmakers are making plays so it's fun to play football when things are going like that."
Despite losing 36-30 in overtime against the Bears, the Vikings carried that offensive resurgence into the season finale against the New York Giants on Sunday, when they produced 487 yards of offense, including 358 yards passing.
Center John Sullivan said those final 100 minutes of the regular season helped the team's confidence.
"It was huge. We feel like we got back to what we expect of ourselves. That's to go out and score points on anybody we play," Sullivan said. "We feel the coach put a great game plan together and if we go out there and execute, the run game and the pass game should both work and we'll be a tough team to beat."
Rice said the team doesn't look back, even in bad times, when searching for a groove they had earlier in the season. He and Sullivan both mentioned a shift in philosophy to just worry about each play.
"I feel like we were out there doing what we were supposed to do, executing on our plays and just taking it one play at a time. That's huge for us," Rice said. "We need to start taking plays one play at a time and putting everything into that one play to try to get things going as we did in the second half of that Chicago game and also throughout that whole game (against the Giants). We were able to move the ball, put points up on the board. I feel that's what this team is capable of."
There is theory floating around that the Vikings' success recently has been because a shift in philosophy. Head coach Brad Childress said earlier in the year that at one point it might seem like heresy to emphasize the passing game more than the running game, especially with Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
When the Vikings got behind so early in Carolina, Peterson was limited to only 12 carries that game. In Chicago, the Vikings made a concerted effort to keep Peterson a part of the offense and he rushed 24 times. But against the Giants, even with a big lead, Peterson only carried the ball nine times.
Some games, they have tried to stick with the running game. Other times, they appear content to be a pass-first offense.
"That's what offense is. You can't be one dimensional," Sullivan said. "They both have to be a threat and they feed off each other. You have to find ways where sometimes you have to run the ball no matter what. They can put eight or nine in the box and you have to find a way to get it done. Sometimes you have to throw the ball. You just have to try to be successful in whatever situation you find yourself in, but the run game and pass game are not competitive with each other. They complement each other."
Shiancoe added that the Vikings going to a no-huddle or simply up-tempo attack also helps the offense.
"That tempo does help, especially when … we've got a no-huddle offense that we run sometimes. I feel like that does help to get the defense off-guard or keep them on their heels, and we can run and pass off that, play-action and all that stuff."
After a week off, the Vikings are hoping to maintain that offensive momentum into the playoffs.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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