As usual, Vikings coaches laid out the first 15 offensive plays Saturday evening during a meeting with players. There was nothing usual, however, about the opening play that coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decided to run against Oakland on Sunday.
The design was to have running back Chester Taylor line up wide right, go in motion and take a handoff from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on an end-around. Taylor would then pitch it to receiver Sidney Rice on a reverse, and Rice would throw a deep pass for tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
"It was one that we had been working on for quite a few weeks," Bevell said. "We thought we had enough cooking in the oven so we thought it was time to pull it."
The timing, indeed, was right.
The Vikings had the ball at their 16-yard line to open the game. Rice took the pitch from Taylor, set up on the 10-yard line and let fly with a pass that a wide-open Shiancoe caught at the Oakland 37 with free safety Stuart Schweigert 8 yards behind him. Shiancoe had to briefly hold up and was caught at the 5 for a 79-yard gain.
Chester Taylor's 10-yard touchdown run -- Shiancoe's spike of the ball in celebration resulted in a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty -- gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead in a 29-22 victory over the Raiders at the Metrodome.
The connection was a team record for the longest reception by a tight end and was also the Vikings' longest pass thrown by a non-quarterback.
"The line and the running backs and everybody really sold the run," Shiancoe said. "That really put the safeties up and allowed me to get past them, and I just got on my horse and Sidney threw a good ball."
Despite having several hours to think about executing the play, Rice wasn't a victim of nerves. "Not at all," he said. "My teammates were joking about it [Saturday night]. Bobby Wade was saying, 'You're nervous already.' But I wasn't nervous at all."
That was only the beginning for Rice, who missed last week's 34-0 loss at Green Bay because of a hamstring injury. A former high school quarterback in Gaffney, S.C., the rookie also completed a 15-yard pass to Troy Williamson in the third quarter. On that play, Rice didn't know he would be throwing until the call came in the huddle.
Rice's 94 yards passing was more than Tarvaris Jackson had in 19 attempts against Dallas on Oct. 21 and 12 attempts on Nov. 4 against San Diego. It's also more than Kelly Holcomb had (88 yards) against Philadelphia in 16 attempts on Oct. 28.
"Usually when you want a halfback pass or [a play where] any wide receivers can throw, everybody puts their hands up and says, 'Ooh, ooh, ooh, me, me, me,' and then some throw it just God-awful," Childress said. "[Rice is] not one of those guys. He has a big hand and he can yoke the football. We've always known that he could do that."
So does Rice want to throw the ball more often? "It's fun as long as you complete the pass," he said. "But I ain't with all the getting hit and sacks and all that stuff. Completing passes feels good.... But I like catching it."