Turning Point: One Drive, Four Mistakes

The Vikings offense made mistakes throughout the regular season's first 60 minutes of football, but on their final extended drive of the game the offense overcame three mistakes before a fourth miscue ended their chances at regaining the lead with less than two minutes to play.

For all the mistakes and miscues – both physical and mental – that the Vikings committed in Sunday's 24-13 loss to Tampa Bay, there was a pervasive feeling that the Vikings had a game-saving moment waiting. Despite the turnovers and the sputtering of the Vikings offense, when Daunte Culpepper had the ball in his hands with 4:11 to play that not only was there hope, there was the expectation of a game-winning drive. Instead, the Vikings did everything they could to implode.

The drive started with the Vikings pinned on the 10-yard line after Raonall Smith was called for an illegal block in the back penalty on the preceding punt (Mistake No. 1).

After picking up a first down on a pass interference penalty and another on a 20-yard pass to Nate Burleson, Culpepper threw a screen pass to Moe Williams, who was hit by LB Shelton Quarles and fumbled (Mistake No. 2). Fortunately for the Vikings, Marcus Robinson was in the right place at the right time and recovered the loose ball.

The offense continued to look like it was destined to get the game-winner when Culpepper converted first downs with passes of 11 yards to Jermaine Wiggins and 15 yards to Nate Burleson to get the Vikings to the Tampa Bay 23. That looked to improve when he completed a pass to Jim Kleinsasser, but he was hit again by Quarles and fumbled (Mistake No. 3). Again, the Vikings dodged a bullet when Moe Williams fell on the loose ball to keep the Vikings in possession on the 15-yard line at the 2-minute warning.

With the clock an ally of the Vikings, Culpepper looked to convert another first down with a short pass to Williams, but the ball hit both his hands and popped out (Mistake No. 4) and came down in the arms of Brian Kelly, who effectively ended the game.

"Our offense is very rhythmic and we never got into our rhythm today," Culpepper told VU. "The main things that we can focus on are the things that we can fix – mistakes we made, mistakes I made and mistakes we made as a unit."

With all the mistakes made during the game, four that came at a critical time turned what could have been an ugly win into a much uglier loss.


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