It had been a long time since Vikings fans had seen a blocked punt. So long, in fact, only Philadelphia punter Jeff Feagles — who had his punt blocked — was in the NFL when it last happened for the Vikings special teams. What could have been the turning point of the game in the Vikings' favor turned into a surprise backfire and created the momentum swing for the wrong reason.
For the record, the Vikings hadn't blocked a punt since Mike Merriweather did it Nov. 5, 1989. Jack Brewer became the first in 14 years to do it again, but it didn't have the intended result.
With 13:30 to play in the game, the Vikings were ahead 17-16. The Giants were pinned near their own 10-yard line and Feagles had a punting situation facing him. Brewer shot through a gap and smothered the ball. It lay at Feagles' feet on the 5-yard line. A tackle by the Vikings would give Minnesota the ball at that spot. Instead, rookie wide receiver Nate Burleson, whose responsibility it was to keep the play in front of him, went down to his knees for a potential scoop-up. Instead, linebacker Welsey Mallard picked up the ball, sidestepped Burleson and found clear sailing for 13 yards and a first down.
While the Giants didn't score on the ensuing drive, it prevented what could have and should have been an eight-point Vikings lead. The Giants forced the Vikings to play a long field on their next drive and, after a Vikings punt, the Giants scored on their next two drives — turning a 17-16 deficit into a 29-17 lead.
While it is difficult to blame Burleson for not making the play, the simple truth is that the Vikings have gone so long without blocking a punt, there was momentary confusion as to what do in the moments following Brewer's contact with the ball. The Giants, whose special teams have been miserable for some time, have experience with what to do when everything goes wrong.
It showed Sunday and, in a bizarre twist of the bouncing ball, that play gave the Giants the turning point of the game in their favor when it should have been the other way around.
Turning Point: Bad Bounce
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