In his fifth year in the NFL, one thing Chester Taylor was known for was not turning over the ball. In his four years with the Ravens, he had only lost three fumbles and, through nine games as a Viking, he hadn't turned the ball over with a fumble once. That was until Sunday, which created the Turning Point of the Game if not the Turning Point of the Season.
As the game clock was ticking toward the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Taylor had touched the ball 242 times – 218 rushing attempts and 34 receptions – without turning the ball over. But, on two consecutive carries, his case of fumblitis would cost the Vikings dearly.
The first fumble came as the Vikings were already in Ryan Longwell field goal range. Holding a 13-10 lead, a strong punt return by Mewelde Moore and a 17-yard completion to Marcus Robinson had the Vikings with a first down on the Miami 33-yard line. Taylor took a handoff over left tackle and defensive end Jason Taylor, who had a spectacular day, reached in with both hands as the Dolphins had Taylor stacked up and ripped the ball loose. While the Dolphins wouldn't capitalize on the turnover by scoring points, considering that Longwell had made 17 of 18 field goal attempts inside of 50 yards, it was a safe bet that, even if the drive stalled, the Vikings would tack on another field goal to take a 16-10 lead.
After a stop by the Vikings defense, the team again had a shot at making something big happen. With the ball at midfield with less than 10 minutes to play, the Vikings again were faced with a situation to retain momentum and control of the game. In a worst-case scenario, even if the drive would fizzle at midfield, the Vikings could likely pin Miami deep in its own end and, with the defense having made the Dolphins one-dimensional by stopping the run, the Vikings would retain a big advantage. Instead, Taylor once again fumbled. This time, the results would be much more devastating. Taking a carry up the middle, Taylor was hit by defensive tackle Matt Roth and the ball popped loose. Defensive back Renaldo Hill corralled the loose ball and brought it back for a touchdown, giving Miami a 17-13 lead and taking any momentum the Vikings had built away from them.
The Vikings found themselves one-dimensional from that point. Taylor would touch the ball only once after that – a one-yard touchdown plunge as time expired, but the damage had already been done. Fumbling is the biggest no-no any running back can have and, for nine games and three quarters, Taylor had been perfect in not fumbling the ball away. But two fumbles in the span of two carries made the difference in the game and proved to be the Turning Point of the Game.
Turning Point: Uncharacteristic Fumbles
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