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Updated: September 10th, 2010 12:43am
Notebook: With receivers quiet, Visanthe Shiancoe gets opportunities

Notebook: With receivers quiet, Visanthe Shiancoe gets opportunities

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- With Sidney Rice sidelined and the New Orleans Saints taking away the rest of the Minnesota Vikings' receivers, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe got plenty of chances on Thursday night.

Shiancoe had four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown and was targeted seven times -- all team highs -- but didn't have a reception in the second half of the Vikings' 14-9 loss.

Percy Harvin was targeted five times and caught one for 12 yards. The other starting receiver, Bernard Berrian, was targeted three times and had one catch for 3 yards.

"They played two-deep zone most of the night, so that typically is going to take your receivers out of it," coach Brad Childress said.

Backup tight ends Jimmy Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan also had one catch each as the Vikings played two- and three-tight end sets extensively -- part of a run-first game plan that fell apart after halftime.

The Saints challenged those heavy looks often by sending strong safety Roman Harper to the line of scrimmage, but quarterback Brett Favre still didn't take many shots along the perimeter.

Greg Camarillo and Greg Lewis also had one catch each, giving receivers only four of 15 receptions (26.7%). Favre threw their way a combined 12 times in 27 pass attempts (44.4%).

"They give you pressure packages," Favre said of the Saints, who blitzed sparingly and regularly dropped eight in coverage, "but they don't give you much over the top."

Shiancoe keyed the Vikings' touchdown drive late in the first half. He beat linebacker Scott Shanle up the seam for a 33-yard gain, then shook middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and went to the post for a 20-yard score with Jabari Greer also in coverage.

"Every defense has a lot of vulnerabilities," Shiancoe said. "Brett just found that vulnerability and he made a perfect pass."

Favre's lone interception also was intended for Shiancoe, who felt middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma interfered with him before making the play.

"Honestly, I did think he did bump me on the interception," Shiancoe said. "But a lot of things weren't called."

Shiancoe and Favre both extensively pleaded their case to officials after the play.

"I thought the back judge that's supposed to be looking at the third guy in the trips missed the fact that 51 was mauling him," Childress said. "And when (Vilma) didn't maul him, (Shiancoe) ran down the middle and caught a touchdown."

The production came after Shiancoe was flagged on consecutive plays for holding and pass interference in the first quarter, backing up the Vikings into a second-and-30 hole from which they couldn't escape.

Peterson hangs on

Adrian Peterson got the ball 22 times -- 19 carries for 87 yards and three catches for 14.

One thing he didn't do on any of them: fumble, despite the Saints' efforts at every turn to rip the ball out of his hands.

"It was something that I had established a long time ago," said Peterson, who fumbled twice and caused another in January's NFC championship game here.

"Just watching my film and seeing how last year I put it on the turf. I was able to study myself, take that away, and I really wasn't worried about it at all during the game."

Three-corner defense

Though cornerback Cedric Griffin was listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report, Childress said he didn't wait until Thursday to decide Griffin was going to be inactive.

"I just felt like, with just a week under his legs, fatigue typically makes those legs a little bit weaker," Childress said of Griffin, who is coming off knee reconstruction and only returned to practice on Sunday.

"I think it's probably a stamina thing that he's going to have to continue to build."

The Vikings also passed on signing rookie Marcus Sherels off the practice squad and instead dressed only three cornerbacks. Asher Allen made a surprise start at cornerback and Lito Sheppard played outside in nickel situations, bumping Antoine Winfield into the slot.

"Both those guys (Winfield and Allen) can play in (the slot), but we wanted Antoine in there," Childress said. "He has some unique skills and Asher has the ability to kick back outside. That's usually where your activity is -- in the slot."

Allen appeared to get caught peeking into the backfield on Devery Henderson's 29-yard touchdown grab up the right sideline on the game's opening drive.

Henderson targeted

E.J. Henderson completed his amazing recovery from a fractured femur by starting against the Saints -- but his performance showed his mobility has a way to go.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees immediately targeted Henderson in coverage, completing his first two passes against the Vikings' middle linebacker for 28 yards up the seam to Marques Colston and 12 yards to Lance Moore.

The Vikings played a handful of snaps with Ben Leber and Chad Greenway as the nickel linebackers instead and may consider using that combination going forward.

Quick hits

• Third-year safety Husain Abdullah made his first NFL start, and Childress indicated it won't be his last. "He's the starting strong safety," Childress said. Abdullah -- a Muslim whose Ramadan fast ended on Thursday night -- was credited with four tackles (three solo) and another on special teams.

• Childress lost a challenge of an incomplete pass to Kleinsasser early in the fourth quarter. Replays didn't appear to show the ball hitting the ground, but referee Terry McAulay upheld the call on the field. "Terry just said he couldn't substantiate it," Childress said. "Jim was pretty adamant about the fact that he caught it, and I figured in an opening game, with however many cameras they had here, you're probably going to get better than a regional game look at it."

• Favre said his problematic left ankle didn't give him any trouble. "I don't move around like I used to, but I felt like it held up OK," he said.

• The Vikings' captains are QB Brett Favre, PK Ryan Longwell, MLB E.J. Henderson, LG Steve Hutchinson, DT Kevin Williams. The Saints won the coin toss and chose to receive.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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