Turning Point: Turnover Nemesis

Like the first two games, the Vikings had opportunities to win in the latter stages against the Panthers, but interceptions and a fumble at key times left them reeling.

Mike Tice has a list of 13 variables that make the difference between winning and losing. At the top of the list is turnovers — not giving the ball away and taking it away.

Entering Sunday's game with Carolina, only Pittsburgh and Detroit had a worse giveaway-takeaway ratio than the Vikings. That didn't improve Sunday, as the Vikings made the mistakes at critical times late in the game that killed them.

After surviving a pair of first-quarter interceptions, quarterback Daunte Culpepper was struggling to find his rhythm in the second half. With neither offense generating much, Culpepper tried to make a big play to give the Vikes a 14-0 lead. Instead, his pass was badly overthrown and picked off by Deon Grant on the Vikings 28.

It took only two plays for the Panthers to convert that mistake into a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

After falling behind 14-7, the Vikings had a chance in the fourth quarter to do what opponents had done to them in the first two games — come from behind to win. With the team looking solid with a pair of first downs on the first two plays of the drive, Michael Bennett, who had never lost a fumble in his NFL career, coughed up the ball while heading out of bounds.

The Panthers recovered and would convert that turnover into the game-killing score on a 24-yard run by Lamar Smith.

Heading into the season, the Vikings were well aware of the deficiencies on the defense and the need for the offense to carry the team. However, uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers at key times not only cost the Vikings the lead against the Panthers, it cost them a chance to catch up late and provided the turning point of the game.

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