At halftime of Sunday's Vikings-Raiders game, the Oakland players had to be wondering what it was going to take for them to take advantage of Vikings' mistakes. At the time, the Raiders were a plus-four in the turnover battle and were tied 19-19, despite being outgained 291-176, and had just 20 yards rushing.
As other teams have learned, when the Vikings run defense is on its game, the best bet is to abandon the run and try to attack the Vikings through the air. Not only did the Raiders not do that, but they force-fed the run in the third quarter and, in the process, created the Turning Point of the Game.
As other teams have found out over the last couple of seasons, running on the Vikings is never easy. Oakland was no exception. In the first half, the Raiders ran 16 times for just 20 yards – all but three of those carries coming from featured back Justin Fargas. But, with a 30-minute game coming out of halftime tied, the Raiders still tried extremely hard to establish the run – and it cost them.
While other teams have used halftime to adjust their game plan, the Raiders stuck with their philosophy of pounding the rock – and the Vikings knew they were going to keep at it.
"We weren't surprised," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We knew they were going to run the ball. That's what they do. It would be like playing against us. You know we're going to run the ball. Fargas runs the ball hard. They're a formidable run team, but we attacked them up front."
The Raiders took the opening kickoff and seemed hell-bent on establishing the run. Fargas ran the ball on the first three plays, including a third-and-11 run that gained 12 yards and picked up a first down. After a holding penalty and an incompletion by Daunte Culpepper, the Raiders tried Fargas twice again – including a run on third-and-15. The Raiders seemed content to punt and play field position.
They shouldn't have been.
The Vikings took over on their own 32 and drove into Raiders territory on a 29-yard run by Chester Taylor and a 15-yard screen to Taylor. While the drive would stall out, it was enough real estate to allow Ryan Longwell to kick a 38-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 22-19 lead.
On their next possession, the Raiders again tried to force the run and the Vikings stuffed both Fargas and Dominic Rhodes for minimal gains to kill the drive. Instead of attacking through the air, the Raiders were content to mix the run and pass, even if it resulted in second-and-longs and third-and-longs. That came back to bite them in the end.
A fumble by Culpepper late in the third quarter killed another Raiders drive and the Vikings took advantage – driving 74 yards on six plays – capped by a leap, land and drive play by Taylor for a touchdown that gave the Vikings a 29-19 lead and gave the Raiders a deficit that forced them to finally abandon the run.
Of the Raiders' final 20 offensive plays, only one of them was a run – a scramble by Culpepper that was intended to be a pass. By trying to force the running game down the throat of the Vikings in the third quarter, the Raiders tried to impose their will. Instead, they found out what so many others have learned – you don't run consistently against the Vikings. It cost them dearly and created the Turning Point of the Game.
Turning Point: Raiders' Stubborn Rushing
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