On a day when many felt the Vikings had a golden opportunity to pick up a game on the Bears and set themselves up for a run against lesser teams, there were multiple turning points in their 9-3 loss to the Bears. But one ugly stretch that began in the final two minutes of the third quarter proved to be the team's undoing – and the Turning Point of the Game.
Four critical plays all went the way of the 49ers, and that would wind up being the backbreaker for the Vikings – with each of them shared equal importance.
The first came late in the third quarter. Trailing 6-3, the Vikings called a screen pass to Chester Taylor. He caught the ball and made a decisive cut back to the sidelines and sprung into the open field. But, as he made a cut behind his own blockers, wide receiver Travis Taylor gave what for all intents was a tap on linebacker Brandon Moore. But the problem was that the push came right on Moore's nameplate on the back of his jersey. The play that looked like it would be a 65-yard touchdown was reduced to a 1-yard gain thanks to the penalty.
Later in the same drive, as the game went to the fourth quarter, the Vikings were running the ball with authority and inside the San Francisco 30. Already in field goal range and facing second-and-5, the Vikings opted to go back to the passing game. On the second-down play, Johnson completed a screen to Chester Taylor that gained just one yard and, on third down, Johnson was sacked from behind by Moore and separated from the ball with Manny Lawson recovering – snuffing the drive and leaving the Vikings empty and still trailing 3-3.
It looked as though the Vikings defense would get off the field without any damage, as Alex Smith was pressured on a third-down check-down pass to rookie running back Michael Robinson. Several Vikings converged and brought Robinson down, but defensive end Darrion Scott came in late and delivered a forearm to the head directly in front of the referee on the sideline and got called for a personal foul. Instead of bringing up a fourth-and-6 – which would surely have brought on the punting team, the drive continued.
The Vikings defense again sucked it up and prevented the 49ers from doing any more damage, but, now facing a fourth-and-9, San Francisco lined up for a 51-yard field goal attempt by Joe Nedney. Time ran out on the play clock before the 49ers could get a field goal off and Brad Childress was convinced that the field goal unit would come off the field. Instead officials blamed the clock operator, gave the Niners another chance and Nedney hit his 51-yard field goal.
Trailing 9-3, the Vikings had no choice but to go for a touchdown on their final drive of the game. Once again, they drove deep enough into San Francisco territory that a field goal could potentially send the game to overtime. Instead, the Vikings had to try for the end zone and failed.
In game that could have swung either way many times, a nine-minute span of mistakes and miscues in the second half resulted in the Turning Point of the Game and a possible turning point for the 2006 season for the Vikings.
Turning Point: Nine Minutes of Miscues
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