Turning Point: Rookie Recognition

There's no question this 2007 Vikings team has some serious additions from the 2006 version, and many of the contributing difference-makers on Sunday came via the draft. See what two of them had to say following their 24-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Entering the 2007 season, the Vikings knew that they would be counting heavily on players with little to no experience playing key roles on both the offense and defense. If they are to be successful, those players will have to step up big. In one three-minute span of the fourth quarter – with the game still very much in doubt – a pair of rookies made three big plays that changed what could have been a heartbreaking loss into a blowout win for the Vikings and helped create the Turning Point of the Game..

With the game 10-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Falcons had mounted their first serious threat – making their deepest penetration of the game to the Vikings 25-yard line. Facing a second-and-9 from the 25, Atlanta quarterback Joey Harrington, who had completed all five of his passes on the drive, was looking for more. Instead, defensive end Brian Robison shot past left tackle Wayne Gandy and sacked Harrington for a 5-yard loss. Faced with a third-and-14 from the 30-yard line, Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino didn't want to risk potentially coming away with nothing, so he called a draw play to Warrick Dunn that gained just three yards and settled for a 45-yard field goal to cut the Vikings lead to 10-3 with 9:23 to play in the game.

"That's been a big question mark about us coming into the season was whether we could get a pass rush or not," Robison said. "We showed in the first half that we could do it and in the second half we just capitalized on it."

With momentum pushing a bit to the Falcons side, it was time for another rookie – running back Adrian Peterson – to make his presence felt. Peterson took the opening carry of the drive 15 yards to push the Vikings out to their own 35-yard line. Two plays later, Tarvaris Jackson looked to pass on a third-and-8 play from the Vikings 40. With nothing developing downfield, he swung a screen pass to Peterson, who made the catch, waited for a block from fellow rookie Sidney Rice to get past the first would-be tackler and was off to the races for a 60-yard touchdown – giving the Vikings a 17-3 lead with 7:19 to play.

"When I finally got the ball and tucked it, I looked up field and saw Sidney make a great block and I basically cut off him and there was nothing but green grass," Peterson said.

Not to be outdone, Robison was at it again as the Falcons were forced into panic mode down by 14. Trying desperately to mount a drive, Harrington faced a third-and-5 play from his own 20. Robison again got to him and brought him down for a loss that would end the drive, force a punt and not allow the Falcons to get the ball back until 2:48 remained in the game – at which time he would be picked off by Antoine Winfield for another Vikings defensive touchdown.

"My signature move is speed, and that's what I used on the first one," Robison said. "The second one, our defensive tackles and the other end made him step up. I did a spin move and came inside and got him. So really, two different moves, but speed is definitely my signature move."

A year ago, there was no telling whether any of those plays would have happened. One certainty is that neither Robison nor Peterson would have been involved in them because they were more concerned with their Oklahoma-Texas rivalry. Instead, Peterson and Robison went from being enemies to teammates and increased the cache of the Big 12 and while combining to help make the Turning Point of the Game.

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