In nine home games, including the playoff win over Dallas, the Vikings offense committed just two turnovers. In Sunday's 14-10 loss to Miami, the Vikings committed four turnovers. Not only were there too many, but it's where they happened that created a heartbreaking turning point of the game for Vikings fans.
Sunday's game had all the makings of the NFC Championship Game lost to New Orleans in January. The Vikings out-gained the Dolphins by 138 yards (364-226), but critical turnovers did them in once again.
"It just seems to come down to the turnover ratio," Jared Allen said. "We win the turnover ratio and we win the game. If we lose it, we lose the game."
The first drive of the game technically wasn't a turnover, but the Vikings turned the ball over on downs. The offense engineered a 10-play drive that got the team to the Miami 26-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the 26-yard line, instead of trying to get on the board with a 43-yard field goal attempt, the Vikings went for the first down. Brett Favre's pass got batted down and, when Miami quarterback Chad Henne completed a 46-yard pass to Brandon Marshall on the Dolphins' first offensive play of the game and went on to score a touchdown, any early momentum the Vikings had vanished.
Late in the first half and still trailing 7-0, the Vikings had another chance to put points on the board. With the ball on the 13-yard line, Favre tried to squeeze a pass into Percy Harvin, but the ball was tipped and intercepted by Vontae Davis at the 1-yard line – keeping the Vikings scoreless.
With the score still 7-0 in the third quarter, another Vikings turnover gave Miami the seven points that would prove to be the margin of victory. In his own end zone trying to convert on third-and-11, Favre was stripped of the ball by linebacker Cameron Wake. Fellow linebacker Koa Misi recovered the loose ball in the end zone to give Miami a 14-0 lead.
On their next possession, the Vikings again got in the red zone, only to have CB Jason Allen intercept another pass on the 1-yard line to kill a drive and keep the Vikings off the board.
"We had our troubles in the red zone. You can't cast it any other way," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Then we turned it over when we were int eh red zone."
With a chance to take the lead with a little more than two minutes to play, the Vikings offense stymied at the 1-yard line, as Adrian Peterson was stuffed on a fourth-down carry.
In all, the Vikings turned the ball over to Miami three times from the 1-yard line. One time doing that is viewed as unacceptable. Three times is hideous and the main reason the struggling Vikings offense has just two touchdowns in two games and have lost both.
"It takes time to get some cohesiveness," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "It's all part of the process. We have to go back to work. That's all we can do. All we do is control what's inside the circle. We lost the game. They're a good team. It was a winnable game. We gave it away. That's no disrespect to that team. That's a good team. But we don't need to give these games away."
That is exactly what the Vikings did and, in a game they desperately needed to keep pace with the Packers and Bears – both of whom won Sunday – they came up flat and left too many opportunities on the doorstep, creating what may end up being a season-changing turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Turning point: Red zone, end zone wreckage
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