Vikings: 5-11 Or 15-1? Ten Plays That Shaped the 2008 Season

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 and quarterback Gus Frerotte #12 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrate after Peterson's game winning 29 yard touchdown run with 2:22 left in the game with the Green Bay Packers on November 9, 2008 at the Metrodome in Mineapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Last season was one of twists and turns for the Minnesota Vikings, with some fans forgetting that this was a team that won a division title for the first time since 2000.

Minnesota started off 1-3, but behind more steady quarterback managements and some game-changing plays, they reeled off nine wins in their final 12 games and won the NFC North.

Along the way, there were many big plays in crucial moments as well as some plays that seemed to turn the tide for the opposition.

Here are some of the plays of the 2008 Vikings season that might have cost the team some games or pushed the Vikings over the top to get a "W."

Plays That Stopped the Vikings From Wins

1.Visanthe Shiacoe's Dropped Touchdown: Week Two vs. Colts

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In the first quarter of the Vikings' home opener, Shiancoe dropped a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

The fans let Shiancoe hear it going back to the bench and Jackson lost his starting job later in the week after the 18-15 loss in which the Vikings could only muster five field goals.

What Could Have Happened: Who knows? With a Shiancoe catch in the end zone, the Vikings put more pressure on Peyton Manning in the second half and get their first win of the season. Jackson probably keeps his job under center. Instead, the team is led by Gus Frerotte to keep the season from falling apart.

2. Charles Gordon's Muffed Punt, Special Teams Touchdown for Bears: Week Seven at Bears

In a shootout in the Windy City in week seven, the Vikings made a couple blunders on special teams that gave Chicago 14 points. The first? Vikings cornerback Charles Gordon was going to let a punt go into the endzone, but the ball bounced up and hit his arm. Bears cornerback Zack Bowman fell on top of it for the touchdown. The Bears won 48-41.

What Could Have Happened: With the recovery in the endzone, the Bears went up 24-17 and led the rest of the way in a much-needed win to stay ahead of the Vikings in the division. If the ball doesn't take a funny bounce and hit Gordon in the arm, the Vikings go on offense in a tie game. Special teams was the name of the game week seven in Chicago.

3. Incompletion on 4th-and-1 in the Second Half: Week 11 at Buccaneers

In the second half at Tampa Bay, the Vikings were tied with the Buccaneers and were lining up on a 4th-and-1 play on their own 49 yard line. Vikings head coach Brad Childress elected to go through the air instead of giving the ball to Adrian Peterson. Quarterback Gus Frerotte rolled to the right and threw a nice ball to Peterson who was running a streak and had a step on Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks. Brooks, who appeared to grab Peterson's arm before the ball got to him, made the play and turned the ball over to the Tampa Bay offense in a 19-13 Bucs win.

What Could Have Happened: There is no reason to think Peterson wouldn't have scored had he caught the ball with a step on Brooks. In that case, the Vikings go up by seven and could have won a much-needed game to put them on top of the NFC North by a game.

4. Falcons Recover Own Fumble in Endzone for Touchdown: Week 16 vs. Falcons

In the third quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons later in the season at the Metrodome, the Vikings were down by seven with the defense looking to make a play and get the offense back on the field. Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan dove toward the goal line and was hit low and the ball popped loose in the endzone. Both cornerback Cedric Griffin and safety Darren Sharper had shots at picking up the loose ball but neither could, as Falcons tackle Justin Blalock fell on top of it and gave the Falcons a 24-7 lead. The Falcons won 24-17.

What Could Have Happened: If the Vikings fall on top of the ball, they give the ball back to the offense only down by 10 with much of the second half to go. And judging by how they finished the game, the Vikings had enough fire power left to come back and win the game to clinch the division title.

5. Jackson's Interception That Was Returned For a Touchdown: Wild Card Playoffs vs. Eagles

In the first round of the playoffs, the Vikings were playing a Philadelphia Eagles team that was not supposed to be there in the first place, but got help the previous week along with blowing out the Dallas Cowboys to win an NFC Wild Card spot.

In the second quarter with the Eagles holding a two-point edge, Tarvaris Jackson threw a terrible pass to the right that was intercepted by Asante Samuel and returned for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 16-7. The Eagles won 26-14 to end the Vikings' season.

What Could Have Happened: If Jackson simply holds the ball and takes a sack, the Vikings can punt the ball away and give quarterback Donovan McNabb and company a longer field. That would have given the Vikings defense an advantage and with a turnover or two, put them in a position to score points and move on to the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Plays That Helped the Vikings Win the NFC North

1. Peterson's Touchdown Run to Beat Green Bay: Week 10 vs. Packers

With both the Vikings and Packers sitting at 4-4 in a week 10 border battle, quarterback Gus Frerotte had already thrown three interceptions, one for a touchdown, and the offense was not getting much done.

With less than five minutes, Adrian Peterson provided the spark that the offense needed. With just over two minutes left in the game, Peterson took a handoff to the right and with some good blocking, scampered 29 yards for the tying touchdown. Ryan Longwell kicked the extra point to give the Vikings the lead 28-27 and Minnesota won to move up a game over Green Bay in the NFC North.

What Could Have Happened: The Vikings offense could have been stopped or turned the ball over, which would have resulted in a devastating loss for the purple. Minnesota would have dropped to 4-5, making their road to the NFC North title an uphill battle the rest of the season.

2. Antoine Winfield's Sack, Scoop, and Score against Carolina: Week Three vs. Panthers

With the Vikings 0-2 and down 10-3 at home against the Carolina Panthers in week three, the smallest guy on the field might have made the biggest play of the game.

With a little over a minute left in the first half, Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme dropped back to pass. Winfield came on a delayed blitz and smacked Delhomme to force the ball out. He had great awareness to see the ball, pick it up, and run 19 yards to tie the game at 10 going into halftime.

What Could Have Happened: If the Panthers get down the field and kick a field goal or even go into halftime with a seven-point lead and momentum, the Vikings have an uphill battle to avoid an 0-3 start to the season.

3.Winfield's Blocked Field Goal Return for a Touchdown: Week Five at Saints

In the first quarter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had be tearing apart the Vikings secondary already up 7-0 and was moving the ball into Minnesota territory when the drive stalled and the field goal unit came on the field for New Orleans. The Vikings blocked the kick and the ball fell perfectly in cornerback Antoine Winfield's hands behind the play and he took it back 59 yards for the touchdown to tie the game. Minnesota won 30-27.

What Could Have Happened: If the Vikings don't block the field goal and kicker Martin Gramatica converts, the Saints go up 10-0. That hole would not be impossible to overcome, but difficult with the way the secondary was playing against Brees and the Saints' passing attack.

4. Tarvaris Jackson's Touchdown Pass to Visanthe Shiancoe: Week 14 at Detroit

With a trip to Detroit after a huge win against Chicago in week 13, the game against the winless Lions seemed like the ideal trap game.

Well, it started out that way, with quarterback Gus Frerotte throwing two interceptions and being knocked out of the game in the first half. Enter Tarvaris Jackson, who struggled badly in the first two games of the season and lost his job. Jackson came in and managed the game well.

With the Vikings down by four with a little over 11 minutes left and the ball at the Lions' 11, Jackson ran a bootleg to the right and hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for the go-ahead touchdown. The Vikings won 20-16 to keep their lead on the NFC North heading into week 15.

What Could Have Happened: The Vikings' offense could have settled for a field goal at that moment to come within one of Detroit, but at that point all bets are off. Getting that lead took some pressure off of Jackson to score more points and the Vikes held on.

5. Vikings Goal Line Stand against Chicago on Sunday Night: Week 13 vs. Bears

With the top spot in the NFC North on the line in a nationally televised game in week 13, the Bears were at the Vikings' one yard line with a 7-3 lead.

After three consecutive tries, the Bears were still at the one. Head coach Lovie Smith decided to keep the offense on the field. Quarterback Kyle Orton handed the ball off to Matt Forte, who was smacked on the right side of the line by many Viking defenders, led by defensive tackle Pat Williams.

On the next play, Frerotte threw a 99-yard touchdown to former Bears wide receiver Bernard Berrian and the Vikings took a 10-7 lead. Minnesota went on to win 34-14 and take sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

What Could Have Happened: The Bears take a 14-3 lead if they put the ball into the end zone with Forte. This puts pressure on Frerotte and the Vikings' passing game to make plays, something that wasn't a strength last season. The game could have very well been put away early without this momentum-changing play and the Bears go on to take the lead in the division.