Turning Point: Touchdown-Turning Mistakes

The Vikings had a chance to double their eventual point total Sunday in Washington, but mistakes at inopportune times killed three likely touchdowns.

Mental mistakes. They're killers in the preseason. They're killers in the regular season. But when the season is potentially on the line, they're devastating.

The Vikings had a miscue trifecta — two mental, one physical — that, while not leading directly to their demise, were clearly the turning points of the game.

The first came early in the second quarter. Trailing 7-0, the Vikings had the ball on the Washington 1-yard line. They had already run Moe Williams twice (picking up 1 yard both times), and it seemed fairly obvious that they would run again — either Williams or QB Daunte Culpepper on a sneak. But a false-start penalty backed the Vikings up to the 6-yard line, where running was no longer an option. Culpepper misfired on his third-down pass and, instead of likely tying the game 7-7, the Vikings trailed 7-3 and never led or tied thereafter.

The second big miscue came with 14 minutes to play. Trailing 14-10, Culpepper avoided a blitz by rolling to his right, buying additional time and throwing a bomb to Randy Moss that he jumped and caught, spun away from a defender and took into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown — or so he thought. Tackle Adam Goldberg was called for a holding penalty that negated the touchdown that would have given the Vikings a 17-14 lead. Two plays later, the Vikings punted and the Redskins drove 71 yards on the next drive for a TD.

The third huge mistake came with 9 minutes to play. Down by 11 points and needing a big play in a hurry, the Vikings looked to get it as Culpepper threw a perfect pass in stride to a streaking Nate Burleson — who looked destined to take the pass 54 yards for a TD. Instead, he dropped the ball. Two plays later the Vikings punted.

In a game in which 21 points was enough to win, the Vikings had three potential touchdowns taken off the board because of mistakes that shouldn't be a problem in Week 17. Yet they were, clearly producing the turning point of the game.

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