Fans who didn't see Sunday's game would have thought the Vikings offense was the power player in a high-scoring 39-26 win. But, in fact, it was the defense that did much of the damage and created the turning point of the game.
After a first half in which the Vikings defense was burned for plays of 33, 47, 55 and 23 yards — all that led to Atlanta points — the Vikings needed a lift, and the defense provided it at every turn after halftime.
Here's the VU defensive briefing:
* Third quarter, 11:35 to play. The Vikings offense went three-and-out, and Atlanta had a chance to bury the Vikings with a long scoring drive. Instead, the Vikings defense forced a three-and-out series. A penalty on the ensuing punt left the Vikings offense with a short field and it scores — tying the game 20-20.
* Third quarter, 5:40 to play. With Atlanta trying to mount a drive to regain the lead, Kenny Mixon blew through for a 6-yard sack of Doug Johnson. The Falcons punted again and, thanks to a 51-yard pass to Kelly Campbell, the Vikes take a 27-20 lead.
* Third quarter, 1:35 to play. The Vikings forced Atlanta into another three-and-out. The Vikings offense again got a short field at its own 41 and scored another TD to take a 34-20 lead.
* Fourth quarter, 13:05 to play. On the next series, Chris Claiborne intercepted Johnson.
* Fourth quarter, 11:45 to play. After a Vikings turnover, the defense blitzed Johnson in the end zone. A holding penalty led to the second safety of the day for the Vikings D and a 36-20 lead.
* Fourth quarter, 8:10 to play. Atlanta is driving for a score to potentially cut the deficit to eight points, but Ken Irvin caused Warrick Dunn to fumble on the 5-yard line. Claiborne recovered to kill the drive.
* Fourth quarter, 5:00 to play. Johnson tried for another desperation score and was picked off by Brian Russell. He lateraled to Brian Williams and the pick is returned 78 yards — leading to a field goal and a 39-20 Vikings lead.
While the offense needs to be credited for making big plays to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 19-point fourth-quarter lead, by never allowing Atlanta to maintain the rhythm it had in the first half the Vikings defense helped swing momentum in a profound way.
Turning Point: Opportunistic Defense
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