At the two-minute warning of Sunday's game, the Vikings had a 17-6 lead. Their defense had carried the team the entire game and it wasn't until 5 minutes remained that the Cardinals had even gained a first down in the second half. But, blowing that kind of lead required a lot of strange things to happen. Alone they could have been absorbed. Collectively, they made up the turning point of the game.
The problems began with 6 minutes to play. The game was over if the Vikings defense holds on a fourth-and-6 play. Cardinals quarterback Josh McCown, making his first professional start, threw a short pass to Anquan Boldin. Boldin was tackled and reached out for the first down. Instead of challenging the spot, the Vikings coaches let it go — and kept the drive alive.
Two plays later, on second-and-21, interior lineman Billy Lyon was called for holding. Instead of having third-and-20, the Cardinals had a first down. Two plays later, the game could have effectively ended on a third-and-13 play from the 48. Instead, McCown found Nathan Poole in a seam in the defense and the play picked up 37 yards to the 11.
Another defensive stand forced another fourth-down conversion and, despite flushing McCown, tight end Steve Bush found an opening and McCown delivered a 2-yard TD pass to keep the faint Arizona hopes alive.
Now it was up to the special teams to save the Vikings' bacon. An onside kick bounced high and Jim Kleinsasser collided with a teammate. The ball popped to the Cardinals, who still had a chance.
Arizona still needed 61 yards to paydirt with one timeout, but a 30-yard pass interference call on Denard Walker put the Cardinals in manageable scoring range. After two completions got the ball inside the 10-yard line, back-to-back sacks by Kevin Williams and Lance Johnstone appeared to put the game in the Vikings' grasp. Instead of the Vikings rushing two and dropping nine players to the goal line — the Cards had to have a touchdown — McCown avoided a pass rush and found Poole one-on-one with Walker and completed the prayer for a touchdown.
Do the math. Seven different plays. If the Vikings made one big stop on any of those plays in the final six minutes, they would have won the division, had a home game this weekend vs. Seattle and, in all likelihood, advanced in the playoffs. Instead, those plays were not the Magnificent Seven, and the result was the premature elimination from the playoffs.
Turning Point: Seven Sins
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