In game as tightly contested as the Packers' 34-31 win over the Vikings, penalties can often be the deciding factor. On a day where the Vikings didn't turn the ball over and Daunte Culpepper didn't get sacked, a pair of back-to-back penalties created the turning point of the game and, in large part, gave the Packers their fourth straight division title.
It looked for all intents that the Vikings were going to control the final outcome of the game. With the clock rolling under 3 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a first down on their own 49-yard line and appeared poised to do to the Packers what the Packers and Colts had done to the Vikings earlier in the year – drive into scoring position, milk the clock and leave with a victory.
Instead, two key plays brought that plan to ruination. First was tight end Sean Berton, who leaned backward a shade early on a first-down play. He was whistled for a false start and the Vikings were backed up 5 yards. On the next play, a draw to Michael Bennett that gained 15 yards for a first down on the Packers 41-yard line, Matt Birk was called for holding on Grady Jackson, backing the Vikings up another 10 yards.
"(Jackson) is a lobbyist," Birk told VU. "He was looking for a call most of the day and, on that play, he got one."
Pinned with a first-and-25, the Vikings tried to cross up the Packers with a run that gained nothing. A bomb attempt into double coverage to Moss followed and fell incomplete. Facing third-and-25, Culpepper flipped a pass to Jermaine Wiggins, who gained 20 yards, but came up 5 yards short – punting the ball to Brett Favre and allowing him to work his magic.
In the end, it wasn't the Packers defense that stopped the Vikings, it was their own offense – which was the difference between coming back to the Metrodome in two weeks or needing some help to prepare for a playoff game on the road.
Turning Point: Key Penalties
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