As with most preseason games, there is more than one game within the game. Saturday's opener with the Jacksonville was no exception, creating two turning points of the game -- one for starters and one for the reserves.
The first came on the Jaguars' opening drive -- one of the few chances for the Vikings first-team defense to make plays. But it was the fans who provided the first spark. After a failed first drive, the Vikings defense was getting lit up by Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith. The Jags had the ball on the Minnesota 5-yard line and the end zone crowd got raucous and noisy. It resulted in a false start on the Jags on third-and-1. After gaining back the 5 yards, the Jags were ready to go for a first down when a second noise-induced offsides call forced the them to try a field goal. It was missed to keep the game scoreless.
The Vikings would drive the length of the field and turn what could have been a 7-0 deficit into a 7-0 lead.
The second turning point was much more game-changing (and perhaps career-changing) for a couple of Vikings running backs. Leading 7-3 with a minute to play in the half, the Vikings had the ball on Jacksonville's 3 looking to blow the game open. Larry Ned took a handoff and was stripped of the ball. Jacksonville's Ike Charlton recovered it on the fly and was off to the races -- going 97 yards after shaking a Nate Burleson attempted tackle for a score.
On the ensuing kickoff, trying to get additional yardage on the return, running back John Avery was stripped of the ball and Jacksonville recovered. Already in Vikings territory, Jacksonville worked the ball into field goal range and, as time ran out in the half, the Jaguars kicked a field goal to take a 13-7 lead.
The series of plays both had an impact on the complexion of the game -- Jacksonville's first-team offense being frustrated and playing almost the entire first half and the Vikings committing two turnovers that turned what should have been a 14-3 halftime lead into a 13-7 halftime deficit. Two different sets of players, four critical plays that changed how the rest of the game would be played, and two distinct turning points of the game.
Turning Point: Preseason Errors
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