Flea-Flicker Burns Defense

Safety Robert Griffith and the run defense did the job all day, but they got caught once being too aggressive and it led to the Panthers getting the lead for good.

Sometimes the biggest plays can be the ones created by a team's strength.

On Sunday, the Vikings defense was playing aggressive, smart and making all the right moves. In Carolina's first seven drives of the game, the Vikings had limited the Panthers to one first down or less in five of those drives. After scoring two touchdowns in a little over three minutes, the Vikings had the Panthers on their heels and had a chance to bury them.

George Seifert, the Panthers head coach, was impressed with the hard-hitting aggression of the Vikings defenders and decided to use that strength against them to tilt the game in Carolina's favor. Trailing 13-10 with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter, Seifert called for a trick play. The Vikings had been shutting down the run by sending safeties and corners when it was an obvious running down. That would haunt them.

Chris Weinke handed the ball to running back Nick Goings, who sold the play to safety Robert Griffith, who bit on the run fake and came to the line. When Goings flipped the ball back to Weinke for a flea flicker, it was obvious that Griffith was beaten by wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad and would be in trouble. Weinke delivered the pass on target and it went for 43 yards, giving the reeling Panthers the momentum they needed.

"That was a huge play," Lance Johnstone told VU. "They didn't score on it, but it gave them a lot of life. It changed things around for the rest of the game, because it put them right back in position to take the lead."

That's exactly what the Panthers did. Three plays later, Weinke completed another pass to Muhammad — this time a 16-yard touchdown — to give Carolina the lead again. The Vikings would never lead after that.

The momentum gained from that play carried into the fourth quarter when Daunte Culpepper, feeling he needed to make a big play to get the Vikings back into the game, forced a pass into double coverage that was intercepted by Deon Grant. The pick gave Carolina the ball in Vikings territory and Weinke drove the Panthers 34 yards for the game-clinching score.

It isn't always the scoring plays that make a big difference in a game. Sometimes it's just making the right play at the right time. After playing horribly for two quarters, the Vikings had found themselves in a position to win — only to be stymied by a trick play. Seifert waited for the perfect opportunity to take advantage of what had been the defensive strength all day and made it work — creating the turning point of the game. VU

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