Turning Point: From Trickery To Tragedy

The Vikings' inability to get their special-teams players on the same page turned a potentially huge positive play into a definitively negative one.

In the entire tenure as head coach of the Vikings, Dennis Green and special teams coach Gary Zauner never tried a fake field goal or punt. Their rationale was that teams didn't need gadget plays or trickery to try to win games. That philosophy, for the most part, had been adopted by Mike Tice and Rusty Tillman and caused the turning point of the game.

Philadelphia had dominated much of the first half, building a 14-0 lead a minute into the second quarter and, after the Vikings had responded with their own score, had marched back down the field to make the score 21-7. The Vikings looked to have the game in the boxer's mentality — we'll take your best shot and deliver our own. But with 4:40 to play in the first half, they went into uncharted waters.

Faced with fourth-and-goal from the Eagles 3-yard line, the Vikings had two options — go for a touchdown and hope to cut the deficit to 21-14 or kick a field goal and make the score 21-10. Instead they went for Door No. 3 — which turned out to be a horribly bad decision.

The team called for a fake field goal in which Randy Moss would head to the sidelines like he was leaving the field, stop and catch a wide open pass from holder Gus Frerotte. But the coaches never let all the players know the play was on. Moss walked off the field and, when the ball was snapped, Frerotte looked to find nobody there. The worst part of the fake play was that, even if it had worked, the field goal team hadn't been informed and had 11 men on the field — meaning a potential TD would have come back.

The result was huge. The Vikings came into the second half still trailing by two touchdowns, and field goals were no longer an option. Forced to pass for first downs, Daunte Culpepper was intercepted in Eagles territory on the next two drives, and what faint hopes the Vikings had fizzled at that point.

While players are told to execute the plays called, this one came down to a coaching mixup that had no chance for success — if the play fails (which it did), the Vikings miss an opportunity to cut the deficit to 11 points, and if it worked it would have been called back on a penalty. This inability to make a play the team had practiced wasn't the fault of the players, it was the likely a miscommunication fault from the coaches.

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