Turning point: Winfield wakes up Vikings

The Vikings had a hard time scoring in the first half, but Antoine Winfield provided a spark with less than a minute left. His 45-yard touchdown on a fumble return started a succession of scores for the Vikings from which Eagles couldn't completely recover.

Sometimes all that is needed to turn the tide of a game is a big play. Even after being unable to generate any points for much of the first half, the Vikings got a single big play from veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield that opened a floodgate and gave Minnesota an unanticipated turning point of the game.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Vikings offense had had the ball five times and generated little in the way of big plays and trailed Philadelphia 7-0. With the ball on the Vikings 39, with 55 seconds to play in the half, Michael Vick and the Eagles were looking for more – needing just five yards or so to get in field goal range with the chance for a touchdown. Either way, barring a big play by the Vikings, it appeared as though Philly would go to halftime with a 10-0 or 14-0 lead.

Enter Winfield, stage left.

The Vikings had blitzed Winfield off both corners often, detecting a weakness in the Eagles protection schemes. He came off the edge untouched and had a line on Vick, who tried to dodge away from Winfield with the ball extended like a loaf of bread. Winfield slapped the ball away from Vick, located it and scooped it up on the Eagles 45-yard line, returning the fumble for a touchdown. Just that quickly, what appeared to be a certain double-digit halftime deficit turned into a 7-7 tie.

The play provided a spark for the Vikings heading into halftime that carried over into the third quarter. With the defense having done its job, it was the offense's turn. Taking a page from the Eagles, who have three plays of 60 yards or more on their first offensive play of games this season, the first play of the third quarter was a 46-yard bomb from Joe Webb to Percy Harvin, taking the ball to the Eagles 28-yard line. On the next play, Webb hit Visanthe Shiancoe for a 23-yard gain down to the 5-yard line. The Vikings looked to score a touchdown, only to have it negated by replay review and had to settle for a short Ryan Longwell field goal, but it gave the Vikings a 10-7 lead – their first lead of the game and one they wouldn't surrender.

After the defense forced a three-and-out for Vick and the Eagles, the Vikings offense came back out and shredded the Philadelphia defense. Starting from their own 25, the Vikings never faced a third down on the ensuing drive. Peterson got things started, running three times for 30 yards to start the drive and pulling in an 11-yard screen to the Philadelphia 34-yard line. On the next play, Webb scrambled away from pressure and delivered a 15-yard strike to Sidney Rice that moved to the 9-yard line when cornerback Asante Samuel was penalized for hitting Rice by launching himself helmet first into Rice's head. Facing a second-and-goal from the 9-yard line, Webb rolled out and, when his primary receiver wasn't open, he scrambled the remaining nine yards, dancing down the sideline for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 17-7 lead with 7:03 to play in the third quarter.

The Eagles would attempt to come back, but were never able to make up for the 17 points they had allowed in less than a nine-minute span in which the Vikings scored three times despite only having the ball twice on offense. After struggling to move the ball offensively in the first half, it was a play by the defense – and Winfield in particular – that created the spark that lit a fire under the team on both offense and defense. It was proof that the momentum of a game can be turned around on a single play, which Winfield provided in creating a stunning 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.

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