To win on the road against a defending division champion, it's imperative that you play a nearly flawless game. For the better part of three quarters, the Vikings did that — but they created their own turning point of the game by making critical mistakes twice when they could have put the Bears away.
Leading 20-13 with a little more than five minutes to play in the third quarter, Derrick Alexander put a move on cornerback Reggie Austin that looked destined to be a touchdown. However, Daunte Culpepper double-pumped and underthrew that pass, which Austin caught on the 2-yard line and turned what looked to be a sure touchdown as the play was developing into a turnover and only a seven-point advantage for the Vikings instead of a 27-13 lead.
The second came in the final three minutes of the game — again a Culpepper interception. Still leading 23-20, the Vikings were effectively running the ball to eat up clock time, and the Bears were down to one time out remaining. On a questionable decision by the referees, the Bears were not charged their final time out. On a second-down play, Michael Bennett was brought down for a 2-yard loss. Ruled in-bounds, several Bears players tried to call a time out — the third one for Chicago. While it was granted, the flag stopped the clock. However, the penalty was declined. Yet the clock didn't re-start and the Vikings were faced with a third-and-long with 2:40 to play at midfield.
Instead of running the ball and forcing the Bears to either use their last time out or let the clock run down to the two-minute warning and give punter Kyle Richardson a chance to try to bury them deep in their own end, the Vikings went for a first down on a third-and-13 play. Culpepper threw a pass right to safety Mike Brown, who returned the interception to midfield and set up the game-winning touchdown.
It's been said that the good teams put away an opponent when they have them on the ropes. The Vikings had the Bears down, but failed to deliver the knockout punch and, in the process, created the turning point of the game.
Interceptions Kill Chances
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