Looking for more from offense
Shiancoe aims to build on big game
By Judd Zulgad
McClatchy News Services
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had one of his best games of the season Sunday. He led the Minnesota Vikings with 60 yards receiving, including a 40-yarder that set up a field goal, and his three catches were one off his season high.
But that didn’t leave Shiancoe satisfied. Not after the Vikings finished with a season-low 120 yards passing and top receiver Bernard Berrian had more rushing attempts (two) than receptions (one).
"I think we’re leaving a lot on the table," Shiancoe said a day after the Vikings’ 30-12 victory at Jacksonville. "This could be one of the best offenses in the league and we have all the potential. We have (Adrian Peterson), we have Bernard, Bobby Wade, Sidney (Rice) and our offensive line is good. I feel with our running game it should really open up our passing game and vice versa. I feel like we really need to get it together when it comes to our offense."
That is especially true given the Vikings (6-5) will play host to the Chicago Bears on Sunday in a game between two teams tied for the NFC North lead. The Green Bay Packers were 5-5 entering their game Monday night in New Orleans.
Lots of money on offense
The Vikings made moves this offseason and early in the regular season to make sure their passing game could become a consistent threat and complement a running attack that featured one of the NFL’s best backs in Peterson. Berrian was signed to a six-year, $42 million deal, with $16 million guaranteed. Veteran Gus Frerotte, also signed last spring, replaced Tarvaris Jackson only two games into the season after the young quarterback failed to show progress.
But the consistency the Vikings were hoping to achieve still isn’t there. Through Sunday’s games, the Vikings were ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing (137.9 yards per game) but 26th in passing (183.5). Last season, the Vikings finished first in rushing and 28th in passing.
Frerotte is 6-3 as the Vikings starter, but his passing statistics have been declining for the past month. In each of his first five starts, Frerotte threw for at least 200 yards, including a 298-yard, two touchdown performance in a 48-41 loss at Chicago on Oct. 19. Frerotte’s passing yardage was the most by a Vikings quarterback since Brad Childress took over as coach in 2006. The negative was Frerotte also threw a season-high four interceptions among his 40 attempts.
Frerotte hasn’t attempted more than 28 passes or thrown for more than 182 yards in any of the four games since. Shiancoe, though, finds no fault with his quarterback. "He’s playing good, man," Shiancoe said. "We just need to let him loose. I feel it’s football, we’re going to make mistakes, everybody can make mistakes, but that’s just the way it is. ... Just let us loose and we’ll do what we have to do."
Said Frerotte: "We call the plays and if they’re not there, you don’t take a shot. You try to be good with the ball, manage the game and get it down to the backs."
Not surprisingly, Berrian’s numbers also have fallen off along with Frerotte’s. Berrian caught a touchdown pass in four consecutive games, from Week 5 through Week 9, and during that time caught 19 passes for 426 yards. But in the past three games, Berrian has four catches for 52 yards and no touchdowns.
There is little doubt that defenses have been scheming to stop Berrian, but Peterson remains the Vikings’ marquee offensive weapon and the primary focus of opponents that often put eight or nine men in the box to stop him. Theoretically this should benefit the passing offense. On Monday, Childress attempted to downplay any dissatisfaction he might have with that area of the offense.