In their preseason opener, the Vikings saw the turning point of their loss to San Francisco come when the 49ers were able to score 14 points on their first two drives on the strength of big plays that broke the Vikings' defensive back. Friday night at the Metrodome, the Vikings turned the tables, scoring 10 points on their first two drives behind several big plays to open a 10-0 lead and building an early turning point of the game.
The Vikings won The Opening coin toss and it didn't take long for the big gainers to start coming against a Buffalo defense ill-prepared for what they were about to face. On the second offensive play of the game, Christian Ponder threw an innocent-looking bubble screen to Percy Harvin, which he broke for a 21-yard gain and had 15 more yards tacked on when cornerback Aaron Williams was called for a hit out of bounds, moving the ball to the Buffalo 42-yard line.
After Ponder was sacked for a 3-yard loss, he completed a short slant pass to Jerome Simpson, who likely made the highlight reels by leaping over a defender and picking up 33 yards to the Buffalo 12-yard line. Again, saddled with a sack – this time for eight yards – Toby Gerhart got in the act, taking a draw play 16 yards to the 4-yard line. Ponder converted the first down with a 2-yard bootleg and, on the next play, completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Felton – capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
After the Vikings defense got Buffalo off the field without doing any damage, Minnesota's offense was set up with a short field at its own 46-yard line. Had the game been in the regular season when the Vikings were faced with a fourth-and-1 play from the Buffalo 45-yard line, odds are they would have punted. However, they went for it and Gerhart converted the first down with a hammering run up the middle for two yards.
Faced with a third-and-6 two plays later, Ponder found Simpson on a short crossing pass short of the first down, but knowing where he had to get, Simpson stretched the ball out just far enough to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive. One play later, Gerhart leaked out of the backfield on a pass play and was uncovered, catching a short dump-off pass for 19 yards to the Buffalo 8-yard.
The Bills forced a pair of incompletions to kill the drive, but the damage had already been done. Blair Walsh came on and kicked a 22-yard chip-shot field goal to make the score 10-0 with 1:39 to play in the first quarter.
While the Vikings' first-team offense gave them four scores in their first four drives of the preseason, it was how they scored that was important Friday night. They got several players involved in the drive – Ponder, Gerhart, Harvin, Simpson and Felton – to give the Vikings a dominating start to the game and, from the perspective of the front-line players, creating an impressive, early 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: Offense turns it on quickly
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