In a game in which neither offense was able to get much momentum built, a span of less than one minute in Sunday's 21-14 win over Arizona set the tone and cemented the outcome of the game in a turning point that saw ineptitude play the biggest role.
"It was just one of those types of games," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We had as a goal in this game to outplay their defense with our defense. We knew coming in that they had a strong defense and we felt like we had to match that with our play. A couple of big moments late in the first half and early in the second half really made the difference."
Much like the Washington game a week earlier, when the Vikings had a chance to build a big early lead but allowed the Redskins to stay in the game until they were able to build momentum, the same type of feel was going around in the Metrodome.
"It didn't feel like we were winning," Allen said. "The crowd just wasn't the usual Metrodome crowd because we weren't sustaining drives and it seemed like we (the defense) were out on the field all the time. We needed a couple of big plays to get the crowd back into it and we got them on the field goal and the pick."
The field goal of which Allen spoke came in the waning moments of the first half. Pinned on their own 21-yard line with just 14 seconds to play in the first half with the Vikings holding a 14-7 lead, Christian Ponder forced a pass that was intercepted by Arizona linebacker Sam Acho with five seconds remaining and gave the Cardinals a chance to cut the deficit to 14-10 at halftime with the Cardinals getting the kickoff to start the third quarter.
Instead, kicker Jay Feely pushed a field goal attempt wide right from 47 yards to keep the score 14-7 at halftime and set the stage for the game-changing play of the second half.
Arizona got the second-half kickoff and was looking to drive the ball and get momentum back on their side. However, on the third play of the drive, Cardinals quarterback John Skelton forced a pass that sailed behind wide receiver Early Doucet and was plucked out of the air by Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
Smith, who hadn't scored a touchdown since high school, was off to the races and worked his way across the field to cover the 31 yards needed for a touchdown. He said after the game that adrenaline kicked in once he saw the open spaces in front of him and he made the most of it.
"A lot of the credit goes to the defensive line on that play because all I had to do was catch it," Smith said. "As soon as you get the ball, especially as a defender, you don't get a lot of chances to do that, you get excited and want to get it into the end zone."
Instead of the Cardinals getting back into the game, either with the field goal or their opening drive of the second half, they allowed the Vikings to extend their lead to 21-7 just 57 seconds into the second half– a deficit Arizona could never overcome.
In terms of an artistic success, it wasn't. The Cardinals held the ball 10 minutes longer than the Vikings, gained almost 150 more yards and ran 22 more plays. But it was two plays in the span of one minute of game time that opened up a lead that couldn't be overcome and provided an offensive turning point of the game from the Vikings defense.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Turning point: One minute, two plays seal win
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