Few statistics are more telling in determining a winner and loser in a game than turnovers. If you commit two or more turnovers than your opponent, your odds of winning a game drop to less than 20 percent on average. But there are sub-categories that make turnovers even more critical – namely when in the game they happen and where they happen. It was this combination of getting turnovers and the spots in which they happened that created the Turning Point of the Game in the Vikings' 24-12 victory over Cleveland.
In the first quarter of Sunday's game, the Browns didn't cross the midfield stripe once. But, they trailed just 3-0 as the game moved to the second quarter and, after four runs by Reuben Droughns put the Browns in Minnesota territory, the complexion of the game looked as though it was going to change. It did, but not as Cleveland had hoped.
Trent Dilfer had the Browns moving on a drive that had got to the Vikings 47-yard line, but a good push up the middle on a second-down pass forced Dilfer to throw a sideline route for rookie Braylon Edwards with urgency. The ball was fired high and hard, hitting Edwards in the hands and popping up in the air, where Antoine Winfield came down with the interception to turn the ball over to the Vikings and kill any momentum the Browns had built.
With five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half, the Browns again had a chance to get themselves back into the game still trailing 3-0. The Vikings had just turned the ball over on a poorly thrown pass by Brad Johnson that was intercepted and the Browns had the ball on their own 38 with the Vikings' fans silenced. On the first play following the interception, the Browns looked to go for a big-gainer to seize momentum. But Dilfer was pressured up the middle again, this time by C.J. Mosley, who was replacing an injured Kevin Williams, and fumbled. Darrion Scott recovered and the Vikings were in business on the Cleveland 35-yard line. It would take only three plays for the Vikings to score a touchdown and take a 10-0 lead.
"That's been the thing about our defense these past few games – different guys are making big plays to give us a lift," Mosley told VU. "It's been somebody different each week. That's how teams win. Everyone expects to make a big play and does his best to make sure he does his own thing. When you do that, good things happen."
The good times continued in the second half. With the Vikings leading 10-3, there was an air of uneasiness as the game had devolved into a field position battle with neither offense getting much of anything generated. One good drive for the Browns would put them right back in the game. But the Vikings had other ideas and got the big play again.
Once again, Dilfer was back to pass and the pocket collapsed. As he tried to buy time in the pocket, he was stripped by Keith Newman and E.J. Henderson recovered at the Cleveland 17. It would take just four plays for the Vikings to turn that turnover into a touchdown – another Johnson pass to Marcus Robinson – and, with those two fumbles, the Vikings turned what could have been a tight game into a 17-3 lead that would never seriously be challenged again.
As if that wasn't enough, Darren Sharper added a pair of interceptions, including one on the only pass of the game by rookie Charlie Frye, to seal the deal and give the Vikings a much-deserved win – as well as creating the Turning Point of the Game.
"We've known all along that we had a defense that was better than what we were showing early," Sharper told VU. "It took some time, but we've got it together and are playing as well right now as we have all year."
In the process, the team is over .500 for the first time this season and playoff talk is no longer a pipe dream – it could be a reality.
Turning Point: Turnovers Create Momentum
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