Turning Point: Big Plays Save the Day

The occasional big play on offense and an opportunistic defense were all that were needed for the Vikings to end up with a lopsided win against Baltimore in what could have been a much closer result.

With the style of play that the Vikings intend to employ this year on both sides of the ball, the focus on offense is precision and short gains – with the occasional bomb thrown in when defenses pack it in. On the defensive side of the ball, the focus is on making the big play. Both of these facets were on display Friday night in the Vikings 30-7 win over Baltimore at the Metrodome and provided the Turning Point of the Game.

The first came in the second quarter as the Ravens looked to answer a 3-0 lead. Starting from his own 29-yard line, quarterback Steve McNair was picking apart the Vikings defense with short passes against a backed-up secondary. McNair was successful at taking the short gains, completing passes of 5, 7 and 10 yards to move the Ravens all the way to the Vikings 32-yard line.

McNair was becoming predictable and the Vikings defense made the adjustment. Looking for a sideline pass to Mark Clayton, cornerback Fred Smoot jumped the route and intercepted the pass. Because he had a running start on a sideline pass, Smoot had clear sailing to the end zone – turning what could have been a 7-3 deficit or, in a best-case scenario, a 3-3 tie into a 10-0 Vikings lead with five minutes to play in the first half.

The second half of the equation came in the opening portion of the fourth quarter. With the Vikings leading 13-7, the Ravens were desperately looking for a stop with the Vikings pinned on their own 11-yard line for their first drive of the fourth quarter. Tarvaris Jackson avoided a three-and-out with a 9-yard scramble on a third-and-7 to move the chains and keep the drive alive.

On the next play, wide receiver Jason Carter put a double-move on a Ravens defender and was wide open down the right sideline. Jackson put the ball on target and Jones was off to the races for a 77-yard touchdown to blow the game open and give the Vikings a 20-7 lead.

Sprinkling in the occasional big play on offense with an opportunistic defense is one of the things coach Brad Childress has been preaching since his arrival in Minnesota. On Friday night, he got both of those to come together to put 14 huge points on the board and create the Turning Point of the Game.

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