Turning Point: Red Zone Defense

While the offense was searching for its groove, the defense — yes, the defense — made a few big plays to ensure the first-teamers would come away with the lead.

For as much heat as the Vikings defense has taken in the preseason for allowing too many big plays and being suspect in both the pass and the run, the simple truth is this — the first-team defense in six quarters of play has not allowed a touchdown since the first drive of the preseason opener and have allowed opponents only three of 17 third-down conversions.

The maligned Vikings defense again continued a trend of coming up big when they absolutely had to and created the turning point of the game in the process.

In their first two drives, the offense had done nothing, and the Titans had a chance to take early control of the game. Driving deep into Vikings territory, a 5-yard pass on a third-and-6 play left the Titans faced with fourth-and-1 on the 13-yard line. Instead of going for an easy field goal, coach Jeff Fisher opted to go for the gusto against a Vikings defense that had been scorched during the drive.

His plans went up in smoke, however, as Kenny Mixon sliced through for a tackle to stymie running back Skip Hicks and provide the emotional spark that got the crowd in the game. Three plays later, Daunte Culpepper hooked up with Randy Moss for a 67-yard bomb that set up a touchdown run by Culpepper to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.

"We weren't surprised they went for it," Chris Hovan told VU. "Cleveland tried it against us and it didn't work, and Tennessee tried it tonight and it didn't work. Teams think they can run on us, but they're finding out it's not as easy as they may have thought."

Later in the second quarter, with the Titans again driving, another defensive stop in the red zone forced the Titans to settle for a field goal. The Vikings offense, lifted up by the solid red-zone play of the defense, came back with another touchdown.

What could have easily been a tie game or a Titans lead became a 14-3 Vikings lead and sent the Vikings' first-teamers to the locker room with confidence because of a couple of big defensive plays, creating the turning point of the game.

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