Turning Point: Second-Half Perfection

The Saints continued to apply the pressure in the second half Sunday night, but the Vikings offense was nearly flawless, and certainly relentless, in its pursuit to keep the Saints from getting any closer than a touchdown.

When a game moves to the second half, much more pressure is put on the defense — both for the team that is ahead and the team that is trailing. The Saints were behind the entire game, but they were relentless in the second half — much like Houston was a week earlier. But this time the Vikings had an answer for every second-half score — even without playmaker Randy Moss — and created their own turning point of the game.

Early in the third quarter, the Vikings had built a 28-14 lead, but the Saints would not go away. It became obvious that the Vikings would have to match the Saints score for score to prevent another second-half comeback like the Texans mustered a week earlier.

After the Saints used a fake punt and a 53-yard run by Fred McAfee to cut the Vikings' lead to 28-21, Daunte Culpepper connected on passes of 28 yards to Nate Burleson and 22 yards to Jermaine Wiggins to get into scoring position. While the Vikings had to settle for a Morten Andersen field goal, it put their lead at 10 points at 31-21.

The Saints again got the deficit down to seven points when John Carney hit a 45-yard field goal, and the onus was back on the offense. Culpepper converted a pair of third downs and, thanks to a cheap shot from Tebucky Jones on Culpepper, got an extra set of downs — something defenses can't afford to give the Vikings. Culpepper made the Saints pay with a 1-yard TD pass to Marcus Robinson to build the lead back to 38-24 with 7:04 to play.

To their credit, the Saints kept marching down the field, as Brooks engineered an 11-play drive that ended with a 5-yard scramble for a touchdown to make the score 38-31 with 2:51 to play. And the Saints still had all three timeouts remaining.

Unlike the Texans game, in which the Vikings offense went three-and-out three times before winning in overtime, the offense in this game wouldn't stall. After running Mewelde Moore twice to burn two Saints timeouts, Culpepper completed a third-down pass to Burleson to move the sticks. Moe Williams followed with a 49-yard burst up the middle and, from there, Culpepper was able to take a knee to secure the win.

For the entire second half, the Saints were on the verge of making what looked to be a blowout a potential comeback. But following every score, the Vikings responded with points of their own and kept New Orleans at arm's length — creating an offensive turning point.

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