Turning Point: Starters' Job Well Done

The starters did exactly what they were supposed to do on the road, taking the early momentum.

One of the hallmarks of all good teams is that they tend to constantly do two things — make the most out of turnovers and shut a road crowd up more often than not. Every team hopes to get those advantages on their side, but the Vikings did in the portion of the game where the starters were in place, using both to create the turning point of the game, at least the portion of the game that mattered most.

The crowd in Atlanta was pumped up for the game. They had star quarterback Michael Vick back. The Falcons were playing their home opener. And they had won the toss to get things started. The fans wanted to get things started with the explosive Vick right away.

That didn't last long. Woody Dantzler came up on a short kickoff and muffed it, kicking it to the 30-yard line, where the Vikings recovered. The Vikings offense came out and needed only four plays to turn the fumble into seven points — scoring on a 1-yard run by Moe Williams.

With the crowd now frustrated and silent, the Vikings allowed Vick to pick up just one first down — on a 12-yard scramble — on the ensuing series and forced a punt. With the fans again anticipating good things with the Vikings pinned to their own 6-yard line, the life was sucked out of them again. After converting third-and-7 into a first down with an 11-yard pass to Williams, Daunte Culpepper launched a 67-yard bomb to Randy Moss for a touchdown, bringing out the boo birds and taking all the life out of the first half of the season opener.

After missing out on what should have been an easy interception by Brian Russell on Atlanta's third drive, the Vikings got another turnover on the fourth drive — a fumble caused by Mike Nattiel and Kevin Williams — that the Vikings would turn into a 47-yard Aaron Elling field goal.

With that, the Vikings had a 17-0 lead and the offensive starters were told to shut it down. There's no telling how the game would have progressed had the starters remained in the game — Atlanta likely wouldn't have tried an on-side kick. But, for the time they were in there, Minnesota's starters did two critical things — taking advantage of turnovers and silencing the domed crowd that wanted to make their lives miserable. The starters did their job, despite the backups giving it back in a loss.

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