Sometimes it takes all three facets of the game to work at the same time to create a turning point. The Vikings did that early Sunday, scoring 28 first-quarter points for just the second time in the 52-year history of the franchise on their way to a 34-10 blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals.
While the Vikings have been no strangers to building big leads in the first half, it was how they did it – they incorporated offense, defense and special teams.
"All three phases of the game did their part," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We needed this one badly and the special teams did its part, the defense got a couple of big plays early and the offense capitalized on it. That was what we needed to get this win and everybody did their part."
It was special teams that got the job done early, as Marcus Sherels had a 23-yard punt return after the Cardinals went three-and-out. When the Vikings offense struggled, Chris Kluwe picked them up by punting a ball that died on the 3-yard line. Sherels would again make the Cardinals pay with a 22-yard punt return to put the Vikings offense in business on the Arizona 18-yard line with 10:53 to play in the first quarter.
It took the Vikings just four plays to cash in on the excellent field position, as Adrian Peterson took three straight carries, the last being a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 9:18 to play in the opening quarter.
It would take the Vikings just 23 seconds to double their lead. On Arizona's next play, Kolb's pass was tipped by Everson Griffen and intercepted by Asher Allen, putting the Vikings in position for a score on the Cardinals 24-yard line. Peterson took care of the rest, popping a carry to the right side for a 24-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 14-0 lead with 8:55 to play in the first quarter.
With the Mall of America Field in a frenzy, the Vikings defense stepped up again. On the second play of the subsequent drive, Brian Robison blew past his man, sacked Kolb and stripped the ball away from him, which Jared Allen recovered on the Arizona 25-yard line. The Vikings offense would again transfer the turnover into seven points, using just five plays to drive the needed 25 yards – capped by a 4-yard run by Donovan McNabb to make the score 21-0 – a lead from which the Vikings would never look back.
"We got momentum on our side early and we just kept rolling with it," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We were able to make a couple of big plays on defense and, when the offenses cashes in on them, it keeps the momentum building. We weren't going to let this one get away."
It wasn't unusual for the Vikings to get off to an early lead, but it was their ability to get all three phases of the game clicking early to score 21 points in the span of less than three minutes of game time that created a blowout turning point of the game.
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: Three-phase early effort
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