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.
Turning Point: Touchdown-Turning Mistakes
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