Philosophical Switch Guns Down Vikings

The Vikings defense was hitting hard and shutting down the Kansas City offense … until the Chiefs took to the air for a couple of drives that meant the difference between winning and losing.

The difference between winning and losing can often be that a team is convinced it can overpower an opponent by imposing its will on them. For the Kansas City Chiefs, in recent years that has involved pounding running backs Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson at defenses. For two-and-a-half quarters, Herm Edwards and the Chiefs remained adamant that Johnson would be the key to controlling the ball and the clock. But, having seen enough as things just continued to go downhill for the offense, the decision to effectively abandon the run helped create the Turning Point of the Game.

Trailing 10-3 in the third quarter, the Chiefs tried to re-establish Johnson and the running game. The results couldn't have been worse. On his first four touches of the half, he had rushes for minus-3, minus-2 and minus-1 yards, along with a screen play that lost five yards. It was clear the Vikings defense wasn't going to allow Johnson to beat them, so the Chiefs made the coaching decision to abandon the run and do what other teams have done – pick apart the Vikings pass defense.

On those negative-yardage plays by Johnson, the Vikings put themselves in a great position to get the K.C. offense off the field. Pinned with a second-and-13 from his own 5-yard line, quarterback Damon Huard completed a 17-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. One play later, faced with a second-and-12, he completed a 15-yard pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez. One play after that, with a second-and-11, Huard completed a 16-yard pass to Gonzalez. Two plays after that, facing a third-and-15, Huard converted a first-down pass of 22 yards to Samie Parker, due in large part to sloppy tackling by Cedric Griffin. While the drive would stall from there, after dodging a bullet four times to have a drive ended, the Chiefs got a field goal to cut the Vikings' lead to 10-6.

After being on the field for six-and-a-half minutes, the Vikings offense gave the ball back in the final seconds of the third quarter and the Chiefs went right back to work with a newfound confidence that they didn't need to run. Starting from his 16-yard line, Huard picked up first downs with passes of 15 yards to Bowe, 15 yards to Gonzalez and 17 yards to Bowe to get the Chiefs back into scoring position at the Vikings 31.

Faced with a third-and-2 situation that, under normal circumstances likely would have meant running Johnson once or twice if necessary, the confidence the Chiefs had in their passing game manifested itself with a 6-yard pass from Huard to Bowe to move the sticks. One play later, Huard would connect on a fade jump-ball that Bowe plucked away from Griffin for a touchdown and what would prove to be the game-winning points.

Fans knew coming into the season that the Vikings would have to win games with their defense. That point was proved again Sunday. The defense accomplished its goal of stuffing L.J., but the Chiefs' willingness to give up on the run at a key juncture of the game gave them a win when that made their own Turning Point of the Game.

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