There are times when a single play can turn an entire game around — take momentum away from one team and turn it around so quickly and so completely that it affects everything that follows it. That is what happened in Saturday's game as one big play by the Vikings defense created the turning point of the game.
The Vikings were confident that their fans would make things uncomfortable for the Chiefs and, after Minnesota scored on its first drive of the game, it was deafening at the Metrodome. But, the Chiefs were ready to make a scoring drive of their own on their first chance — before it got erased by one play.
The Chiefs had just crossed midfield and were moving the ball in short bursts. That was, until a pass to Eddie Kennison. He caught a short pass across the middle and found daylight up the left sideline and raced inside the Vikings 20. But, as he was slowing down to deal with safety Brian Russell, cornerback Brian Williams punched the ball loose from behind. The ball rolled to the 3-yard line, where Russell recovered.
"We need a big play to set the tone," Russell told VU. "When we've been winning, that's what we've been able to get. This play was huge because it not only kept them off the board, but it was the only chance they had to score for a long time."
It was also a controversial play. Williams was out of bounds when he popped the ball loose from Kennison, which isn't legal. But when Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil challenged the play, the tone of his challenged caused referee Ron Blum to only make sure Kennison was in bounds.
"The first challenge, the way that it was worded to me, that he was challenging the fact that his runner had stepped out of bounds prior to fumbling the ball, which he had not," Blum said. "I did not see the second touch (Williams' forced fumble) from out of bounds. In discussing it with observers after the game, I missed the second touch. It should have been an illegal touch because of the second touch. … Even though I looked at the whole play, I was really spending most of my concentration seeing where his feet were when the ball was knocked down. So, it might have just gotten by me."
The momentum swing from that turnover was enormous. By the time Kansas City would next be inside the Vikings 20, the score was 31-0. Instead of a counter-punching fight between two offensive heavyweights, once the Vikings got ahead by 14 points, the Chiefs became one-dimensional and the game was over.
While there will be some controversy surrounding the legality of the call — Williams was out of bounds when he hit the ball — it was a single play that turned the game around — almost the definition of a turning point of the game.
Turning Point: Controversial Call
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