Finishing drives. Coaches preach the virtues of getting seven points every time in the red zone. In Monday's loss, the inability to finish off drives became the turning point of the game — turning what could have been a win into an 11-point loss.
In a game where the Vikings punted just once, they were able to move the ball up and down the field by attacking the Eagles' blitz-happy defense. But, when it came time to finish off the drives, the Vikings came up empty — scoring a touchdown on just one of five drives that ventured into the red zone.
After getting as close as the Eagles 24-yard line on their first drive, the Vikings held an early 3-0 lead. But after Philly scored a touchdown on its first drive, the Vikings were looking for an answer. Facing first-and-goal from the 2-yard line on their second possession, the Vikes ran three times — twice by Onterrio Smith and a QB draw from Daunte Culpepper. Each of the runs was held to a minimal gain and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Trailing 10-6 with less than a minute to play in the first half, the Vikings had a chance to go to halftime with a lead, facing first-and-goal from the 2. Instead, Eagles linebacker Nate Wayne stripped Culpepper of the ball inches from the goal line. The next time Culpepper would have his hands on the ball, instead of being ahead 13-10, he was behind 17-6.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Culpepper appeared to cut the deficit to 17-13, but a holding call on Matt Birk negated the TD and the Vikings had to settle for another field goal and a 17-9 deficit. Finally, on the first drive of the fourth quarter, the Vikings faced second-and-1 from the 14-yard line before a pass interference penalty on Randy Moss and a false start on Jeff Dugan pushed the team back, and Morten Andersen came up short on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
In all, the Vikings got into the red zone five times. They came away with just 13 points, digging themselves a hole too deep to get out of and creating the turning point of the game.
Turning Point: Red Zone Blues
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