Turning Point: Red Zone Defense

The Vikings' season opener against Dallas could have been even uglier early if the Vikings' red zone defense had struggled as badly as the rest of their defensive in the first 20 minutes.

At times in the NFL, surviving is the best you can hope for. When one team is dominating the time of possession and controlling the tempo, close games can become blowouts. But, when one side dominates play and doesn't take advantage it can create the turning point of a game.

The Cowboys came into Sunday's game looking to take away the deafening crowd noise that can be generated inside the Metrodome and were successful — to a point. Dallas took the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards inside the Vikings 10-yard line — only to come away with a short field goal.

After the Vikings' first drive failed to produce any points, Dallas embarked on the type of drive that goes into the history books.

The Cowboys went on an almost-unprecedented 21-play drive that began with 8:09 to play in the first quarter and didn't end until 12:58 remained in the second quarter. But, once again, inside the Vikings 10-yard line, the defense rose up to deny a touchdown. With the Cowboys prepared to settle for a second field goal, a bad snap ended their drive without points and, despite controlling the ball for more than 14 of the game's first 17 minutes, they had only a 3-0 lead.

That wouldn't last long. Once the Vikings offense got its chance to get on the field with some regularity, it clicked like it has since mincamp. The Vikings scored on their next four drives to open up a 28-17 lead and erased all the early momentum the Cowboys had built.

If Dallas could have come away with 10 points, the entire remainder of the game might have been different. Instead, the Vikings defense bent but never broke.

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