In 2008, the Vikings possessed what every team needs to be successful in this league: the ability to run the ball and stop the opposition from doing the same.
However, what kept the Vikings from being a successful team in the playoffs was their lack of passing game with eight and nine men in the box, usually facing a blitz.
In my opinion, these were the top five plays out of the playbook for the Minnesota Vikings in 2008:
1. Adrian Peterson Running to the Left Out of the Single Back Formation
What else would you expect when you have the league's best running back running behind arguably the best left guard in the game in Steve Hutchinson?
Also, with Bryant McKinnie manning the left tackle spot, it's no surprise the Vikings had success.
In 2008, Peterson expressed his feelings about not wanting a fullback ahead of him when running the ball. He said he felt much better out of the single back formation, and it payed off. Peterson was the NFL's leading rusher last year.
2. Delayed Cornerback Blitz by Antoine Winfield
Although this play wasn't frequently dialed up by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, it came up huge in big moments for the Vikings in 2008.
Usually, Winfield would come off the left side, taking advantage of the offensive line's attention solely on defensive end Jared Allen on the right side.
I especially remember this play working in two big spots during the season.
In week three, with the Vikings down by seven against the visiting Carolina Panthers, Winfield came on a blitz in the final minutes of the first half. He hit quarterback Jake Delhomme, who didn't see the blitz coming, forced a fumble, and scampered 19 yards for the touchdown.
The Vikings won 20-10.
In a week five Monday night game at New Orleans, with the scored tied entering the second quarter, Winfield again came on the blitz and forced a fumble on quarterback Drew Brees. He picked up the ball and ran nine yards down to the New Orleans five-yard line.
Then, three plays later, running back Chester Taylor took a handoff and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
Look for more of this out of the smart corner this season.
3. Chester Taylor Catching Passes in the Flat Out of Shotgun
Running back Chester Taylor, in the shadow of Adrian Peterson, showed in 2008 that he could be a starting running back for many teams in the league.
What surprised me the most was his ability to catch passes out in the flat and on screen passes, and have the awareness to find the first down marker.
This played worked in week 10 while playing host to the Green Bay. After Packers middle linebacker Nick Barnett went down with a season-ending knee injury, backup Desmond Bishop filled in.
Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell saw this weakness and went right after it.
Although this wasn't out of shotgun, Taylor was still designed to run a short out. Quarterback Gus Frerotte felt the pressure, stepped up, and hit Taylor, who made a sweet move on Bishop and ran 47 yards for the touchdown.
The Vikings went on to win 28-27 in an important divisional game.
Taylor will most definitely be in the same role in 2009. Look for him as a go-to receiver on third downs when the Vikings throw out of shotgun.
4. Running with Adrian Peterson Out of Split-Back on Short Yardage Situations
Before the 2008 season, using Adrian Peterson out of the split-back formation was not a typical sight. However, the Vikings coaching staff decided to experiment and it worked well when they needed a couple yards for a first down or on the goal line.
This play was best utilized in a week 13 Sunday night home game against the Chicago Bears. With about eight and a half minutes left in the game and the Vikings up 24-14, Peterson and fullback Naufahu Tahi lined up in a split back formation on third and goal.
Peterson was lined up to the right behind Frerotte, Tahi to the left. On the snap Tahi shot straight ahead to lead block. Peterson followed to the left side behind Tahi, took the handoff from a Frerotte, and plowed into the end zone to put the game away.
Look for more of this from the Vikings offense in short yardage situations in 2009 with the lead blocking of Tahi.
5. Bootleg Pass to Tight End Visanthe Shiancoe Out of I-Formation
This might be my favorite play of all that the Vikings offense has executed in the past three years.
Usually, it is run out of the I-formation with two receivers bunched on either side. On the snap, Shiancoe will delay his break from the line. After blocking for a half second, he will release on a drag route.
Meanwhile, the Vikings will fake the handoff to either Peterson or Taylor and bootleg toward Shiancoe's side. Most of the time, he is wide open, making for a very effective play on third and medium.
In 2008, this play worked to perfection in the last minute of the season finale at home against the New York Giants. The Vikings were trailing 19-17 and at the Giants' 38 yard line on a third-and-two.
Shiancoe was lined up on the left side of the line of scrimmage. On the snap, he delayed his release and ran a drag to the right. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson faked a handoff to Peterson on the left side and ran a bootleg to the right, hitting Shiancoe perfectly to pick up the first down.
Kicker Ryan Longwell kicked a 50-yard field goal as time expired to win their first divison title since 2000.
In similar situations, keep an eye on Shiancoe running this in 2009, no matter who is throwing the ball.
Do not get confused though, the Vikings will stick to what they do best, pounding the rock with their running back tandem as well as lining up on defense and smacking you in the mouth.
Next year, I could be writing an article that looks totally different. Let's see what Brad Childress and company have up their sleeves.
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