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BEST VIKINGS PLAYER Minneapolis 2006 - Darren Sharper

Readers' Choice: Brad Johnson

You have to give the 2005 Vikings credit for one thing: It didn't take them long to squelch all that giddy preseason talk of a Super Bowl run, thereby disabusing the Purple faithful of their usual late-fall delusions about the team's prospects. That said, the 2005 Vikings really were not a bad team; they were a mediocre and poorly coached team. That's an important distinction. And for the first time since the Jerry Burns era, the team's strength was its defense. This owed to two things: an anemic offense that would have made any defense look good, and a slew of offseason defensive acquisitions who, once they gelled, played some pretty good ball. In his eight seasons as a Green Bay Packer, free safety Darren Sharper regularly tormented the Vikings (he picked Daunte Culpepper five times). But his acquisition by the Vikes didn't simply deprive a division rival of one of their best players; it gave the Purple D a high impact ball hawk. In the team's only truly impressive win of the year—that freakish 24-21 victory over the New York Giants that made a playoff run look vaguely plausible—Sharper made three critical picks, including one that he returned for a touchdown. His nine interceptions (in fourteen games played) fell just one shy of the franchise record, as did his two INTs returned for touchdowns. Want more? Since 2000, Sharper has racked more interceptions than any other player in the league.

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