Turning Point: Manning's Mistakes

Eli Manning had the worst game of his career the last time the Vikings and Giants played each other. This time, it was even worse, as his four interceptions led to 28 of the Vikings' 41 points Sunday in the Meadowlands.

In the days leading up to Sunday's Vikings-Giants game, much was made of the last time the Vikings traveled to the Meadowlands. With almost no help from the offense, the Vikings managed a 24-21 win by becoming the first team in NFL history to score touchdowns on an interception, a kickoff return and a punt return. The Vikings found themselves in the record books again Sunday, as the Vikings defense created the Turning Point of the Game by getting downright offensive.

On Nov. 4, 1984, the Seattle Seahawks set a league record by scoring four defensive touchdowns in one game against Kansas City. The Vikings became the latest team to notch three touchdowns on interception returns and the first in 30 years aside from the Seahawks in '84 in a 41-17 dismantling of the Giants. The Vikings also became just the ninth team to bring back three interceptions in a game, a feat that was accomplished once in the 1950s, four times in the 1960s and three times in the 1970s – the last being Tampa Bay accomplishing it on Dec. 11, 1977 against New Orleans.

Each pick had its own significance and helped shape the final outcome of the game. The first came with less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter. After both teams had scored on their opening drive, the Vikings had a drive stall out and pinned the Giants on their own 10-yard line. With Eli Manning looking for Jeremy Shockey, Manning threw an out-pass while Shockey cut to the inside. Darren Sharper, who scored a touchdown the last time the teams met in 2005, made a sliding catch, got up untouched and rambled the final 20 yards for a score to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead they would never relinquish.

Manning's second pick of the day was just as important. With the Vikings ahead 14-7 and Manning again pinned deep in his own territory, he threw an interception right at Dwight Smith, who returned it to the Giants 8-yard line. On the next play, Chester Taylor would run the ball in for a touchdown to make the score 21-7 Vikings.

With the score 27-10 early in the fourth quarter, Manning got a break when a pass that was originally ruled an interception by Cedric Griffin was overturned on a challenge from the Giants sideline in the final seconds of the third quarter. But, with the Giants driving to the Vikings 11-yard line and looking to cut the deficit to 27-17 with almost a full quarter to play, Manning's luck ran out. Throwing a pass for Shockey in the end zone, the ball was tipped by Ben Leber and picked off by Smith. While he had been denied a touchdown at the 8-yard line on his first interception, he wasn't to be denied this time – taking off for a 93-yard interception return (one yard farther than Sharper's interception return TD in 2005). Instead of the game possibly being a 10-point contest, the Vikings' lead was now 34-10 and, for all intents, the game was over.

Still clinging to the faint hope that they could score four times in the final 13 minutes, Manning came out throwing following the second Vikings TD. On just his second play, Chad Greenway stepped in front of Shockey again, picked off the pass and had clear sailing for a 37-yard return for a touchdown.

Manning had previously had the worst game of his career against the Vikings the first time he faced them, but at least his interceptions only accounted for seven of the Vikings' 24 points in that 24-21 win. This time, they cost him 28 points – three touchdowns scored by the defense and another that was a one-play drive set up by a pick. They changed the outlook of the game each time one happened and created a déjà vu version of the Turning Point of the Game.


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