It has been a longtime point of contention with this Viking Update staffer that during the entire decade-long tenure of Dennis Green and the two years of the Mike Tice era, the Vikings had never attempted a fake field goal or punt. Sunday they did and, in a bad way, it created the turning point of the game.
After being dominated by the Rams' big-play offense for much of the first 35 minutes of the game, with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter, the Vikings were lined up to kick a 42-yard field goal. If they hit the kick — which, while not automatic, is expected — the game would have been tied 20-20 and the Rams could have started pressing — realizing the Vikings wouldn't go away.
Instead, the Viking called a fake field goal that called for fullback Charles Stackhouse to run behind the line of scrimmage, take a shovel pass and try to find a hole for the required 4 yards. Instead, the Rams got pressure up the middle and, as Stackhouse came in motion, he was tripped. Holder Gus Frerotte flipped the ball where Stackhouse was supposed to be, but he was laying several feet away on the ground.
The miscue left the Vikings behind by three points, and they never recovered.
The Rams took advantage by driving 75 yards in five plays and, instead of potentially having just a seven-point lead, the Vikings now trailed by 10 points.
Forced to get back into the game through the air, Daunte Culpepper was intercepted on his own 20-yard line that, one play later, led to a Rams touchdown.
On the next possession, the Vikings drove down the field, but, now trailing by 17 points, were forced by the situation to go for a touchdown on fourth down. Culpepper was blindsided and fumbled. Aeneas Williams recovered and ran 90 yards for a touchdown.
While there is no way of knowing how things could or would have been different if the Vikings had tried the field goal, the poor execution on the fake changed how the offense could attack the Rams. Fourteen points and five minutes later, the game was over — making the botched attempt the clear turning point of the game.
Turning Point: Failed Execution
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