Turning Point: Early Big Play

Last week, the Vikings fell behind 27-0 in the first half and lost badly. This week, the Vikings took a 24-0 lead thanks to momentum-grabbing plays early and went on to a 33-16 win.

Few things can turn a game around faster and more pronounced than an early turnover. With both teams looking to establish momentum, letting the home crowd into a game can be deadly. That's exactly what happened Sunday, as the Vikings got a turnover on the first play of the game and created the Turning Point of the Game almost before it got started.

The Saints won the coin toss, but that advantage quickly slipped away, as Aaron Stecker was hit by Richard Owens and fumbled. Antoine Winfield recovered and the Vikings had the ball on the Saints 24-yard line just seven seconds into the game.

The Vikings had planned that, if the situation presented itself following a turnover, they would take a shot at a big play. However, they weren't expecting it to come on the first play of the game.

"We were getting ready to go to the (scripted plays)," coach Mike Tice told VU. "But I reminded the coaches what we had talked about last night and we changed it up."

The new call was a sideline route in the end zone for Travis Taylor. The Saints gave the Vikings the coverage they wanted and Daunte Culpepper delivered a perfect pass for a 24-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with just 13 seconds elapsed in the game – the quickest touchdown to start a game in team history.

"I knew that if I did my part, the ball was coming and I'd have a chance to make a play," Taylor said. "It was a big turn in the game for us and got the fans into it and everybody on the sidelines. It carried over from there."

The defense would do its part to keep the frenzy going, as a pair of three-and-outs by the defense kept the Saints out of rhythm and, when Keith Newman had an interception on the Saints' third drive, it led to another Culpepper-to-Taylor touchdown, giving the Vikings a 17-0 lead that would never be seriously challenged from that point on.

Games can turn on critical plays at any time, but when they come early, they can be devastating to the team that gets burned. We saw it last week when the Bengals scored on the game's second play and saw it reverse Sunday – as a big momentum-buster early in the first minute created the turning point in the Vikings' favor.


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