The beauty of football is that it’s a subjective sport. Two people may watch the same exact play and find two completely different things they enjoyed about it. On a long punt return, one person may notice the devastating block that sprung the returner free. Another may cheer for the returner’s quick feet and dizzying jukes.
Think of everything that happens from the snap to the whistle; a period of time that lasts just four seconds. Linemen crash into each other, creating a violent collision of helmets and facemasks. Wide receivers sprint, cut, plant, and fly through their breaks down the field. Shoulder pads pop, footballs whistle out of quarterbacks’ hands, and fans cheer wildly from the stands. It’s an explosion for the senses and a spectacle to behold each Sunday.
Now think back on the Vikings’ 2015 campaign. They ran 973 offensive plays, defended another 1,076, and used their special teams units on 439 more. That’s 2,488 total plays, per Sporting Charts. It’d be nearly impossible to narrow down the best play of the season, but that’s exactly what the poll of the week is for. Many of you will share your own choices in the comments, but I’ve tried to narrow down five of the most memorable, noteworthy plays from a wild 2015. After the jump, we’ll run through my choices.
Chad Greenway’s Pick-Six
Every player hits that point of their career; a point where bumps and bruises linger longer than they should and feet don’t move as quickly as they used to. If Chad Greenway wasn’t there last year, he’ll surely be there in 2016. But while he could, he made the most of his abilities as a member of Mike Zimmer’s defense last season. In Week 3, he returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown, rumbling down the field in vintage Greenway fashion. What’s more, Greenway’s teammates provided him the greatest caravan of blockers we’ve seen in a long, long time. A special play for one of the Vikings’ most cherished players.
Adrian Peterson’s Return to Form
Questions lingered after a 30-yard performance in Week 1 and a fumble-filled outing in Week 2. But in Week 3, Peterson answered the bell, loudest on his 43-yard touchdown run up the right sideline. Though the top speed of old was gone, Peterson showed off his trademark agility, power, and vision on the winding and weaving touchdown scamper. To this day, nothing is more beautiful than a Peterson jump-cut, stiff-arm, and high-step into the end zone.
Minnesota Digs Stefon Diggs
No matter how good a head coach may be, he’s bound to make mistakes. Sitting Stefon Diggs the first three games of the year may have been Mike Zimmer’s biggest mistake of 2015. The rookie sensation was electric the moment he took the field, stringing together three 80-plus yard performances in his first three starts. Against the Detroit Lions in Week 7, he hauled in the catch of the season; a full extension, fingertip-saving reception in the end zone made possible by a veteran-worthy double move. He may have slowed down late in the year, but Diggs proved he’s in Minnesota to stay.
The Hitman Strikes Again
The Vikings are a different defense with Harrison Smith on the field, and it showed in their dominating performance against the New York Giants late in the year. As Pro Football Focus’s top-ranked safety, Smith is the kind of player who can make every single play. He’s a force against the run and an underrated ball hawk. In his first game back from a knee injury, Smith read Eli Manning’s eyes and snagged the ball out of the air, returning it for a touchdown and putting an exclamation point on the team’s best performance of the season.
No. 5 Scores Five
Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdowns against the Chicago Bears in Week 16, but it was his lone rushing touchdown that stood out that day. Zimmer’s advocated for Bridgewater as a sound decision maker, and his touchdown sprint was a perfect decision in the heat of the moment. A rushing lane opened in the middle of the offensive line, and Bridgewater darted through it. Untouched, he raced for the end zone before leaping through a Bears defender to finish the play. I’ll never consider Bridgewater a running quarterback, but when he does run, it usually ends well for the Vikings.
The five plays above are my candidates for the top snaps of the season, but there’s another 2,483 to sift through. Help us decide the top play of the year, and be sure to share your own nominations in the poll or comments section below!