When the Vikings released Gary Anderson, the rationale was simple. To keep him, the Vikings would need to use two roster spots on kickers. The signing of Doug Brien was done as a result of his strong kicking leg. He showed that off at a Wednesday scrimmage by nailing a 60-yard field goal.
It was the confidence the Vikings had in Brien's leg that led to the turning point of the game.
With less than one minute remaining in the first half, Brien was lined up for a 52-yard field goal — an attempt the team likely wouldn't have tried with Anderson. At the time, the Vikings were trailing 10-7 and, instead of trying to bury the Browns deep and let the half run out, the coaching confidence in Brien brought on a long attempt — which fell short.
Head coach Mike Tice said after the game that he thought Brien just tried to kick it too hard and got under the ball.
The miss gave the Browns the ball on their own 42-yard line and, after three incompletions, Cleveland got in range for a Phil Dawson field goal and took a 13-7 lead into halftime.
Early in the second half, the Vikings trailed 20-7 and had the exact same situation, this time trying to pull the Vikings within 10 points from 52 yards out. Brien's field goal sailed wide left and gave the Browns great field position again, which the team used to quickly score another touchdown and put the game out of reach at 27-7.
Tice said he let himself get talked into using Brien again when his gut instinct told him to used Kyle Richardson's ability to "pooch" the ball and pin the Browns deep. Live and learn was basically Tice's appraisal of him changing his mind.
While the loss can't be pinned on Brien, there were two situations that could have changed the game that likely wouldn't have been tried a year ago with Anderson.
The Vikings' confidence in Brien's ability to make long field goals backfired when neither made it, creating the turning point of the game.
Turning Point: 'Missed' Opportunities
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