Turning points in a game can come from anywhere at any time, but it is clear that the turning point of Sunday's 34-10 win over the Bears came long before the Vikings took the field or strung together scoring drives that made the patchwork Bears defense look pretty bad.
For the past few days, it had become almost a foregone conclusion that Mike Tice was was going to be fired. Following the game, Tice was informed by Zygi and Mark Wilf that he was going to be fired. Nothing he or his team would have done Sunday – good or bad – was going to change that. Tice went out to the field pretty much knowing his decade and a half with the Vikings was going to come an end. It was a chance for reflection and to not only look back but to look ahead as well. When asked if he had looked at today's game as potentially his last with the Vikings, his answer was from the heart.
"Of course I did," Tice said. "I'm a human being. I'm a man. I've been here since 1992. I've put a large deal of my life into this program, whether it was as an aging second-string tight end or as an assistant coach or as head coach. I've poured a lot of energy into this program and, of course, you think about it. You take it all in and enjoy the moment."
While the record won't reflect that the Bears didn't put their top personnel on the field for most of the game, the Vikings came out with emotion and intensity on both sides of the ball. From the very beginning, when the Bears strung together a 13-play drive that ate up almost half of the time on the game clock in the first quarter, the Vikings defense refused to quit – forcing the Bears to settle for a field goal and come away from a long, sustained drive with just three points.
The momentum continued to build as the Vikings did their impersonation of "winning one for the Gipper." After driving 90 yards to take a 10-3 lead, the Vikings defense stuffed a fourth-down run by the Bears with less than two minutes to play in the first half, and the offense promptly drove 69 yards for another TD before halftime to take a 17-3 lead that wouldn't be seriously challenged from that point on.
"We had a lot of players that weren't going to give up on this season and we weren't going to give up on it today," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "We have a lot of pride here. We wanted to end the season on a positive note and were able to do that today."
In the process, despite the fact that the Bears viewed the game much in the same way that a team treats a preseason game, the Vikings were able to give Tice a going away present that he can remember fondly for the rest of his life. Emotion can be a huge factor in winning and losing, and the Vikings had what they needed Sunday to make the turning point of the game – even before it began.
Turning Point: Personal Motivation
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