The Vikings needed a big performance from all of their key players to clinch a playoff spot at home against the Washington Redskins. Primary among them were the offensive skill players. But critical mistakes on offense early put the Vikings in a deep hole they never fully recovered from and, in the process, created the Turning Point of the Game.
Tarvaris Jackson was culpable on the Vikings' first drive. On just the second offensive play of the game, Jackson threw an awful pass in the direction of Robert Ferguson that was intercepted by Fred Smoot and returned to the 8-yard line. While the Vikings defense made a huge stop to stymie the Redskins a half-yard short of the end zone, it put the Vikings offense inside their own 1-yard line.
Trying to get additional running room, Jackson handed off to fullback Tony Richardson instead of deep back Adrian Peterson. Richardson got stuffed before the line and brought down for a safety, giving the Redskins an early 2-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Redskins got the ball back and the Vikings defense needed a stop to prevent Washington from building not only momentum, but increasing their early advantage. Faced with a third-and-4, the Vikings defense needed a stop against Todd Collins, but a slant pass to Reche Caldwell moved the chains and kept the drive alive.
Two plays later, this time facing a third-and-4, Collins and Caldwell hooked up again – this time for 16 yards and another first down. With the Redskins in scoring position at the 33, the Vikings defense needed a big stop to at least make them settle for a field goal. Instead, Chris Cooley got let go by E.J. Henderson in the standard Cover-2 defense, but had no help over the top and he was wide open for a 33-yard touchdown to give Washington a 9-0 lead.
The score remained 9-0 into the second quarter, but as the Vikings attempted to make something happen offensively, Jackson was his own worst enemy again. With nobody open, Jackson jumped in the air to force a pass for Bobby Wade, but it came up several yards short, where Shawn Springs picked off the ball and returned it down to the Vikings 32 yard line. With the defense needing a stop, it again betrayed them. On the second play after the interception, the Redskins converted the turnover into seven points on a 32-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, who was locked in single coverage with rookie Marcus McCauley.
The combination of offensive and defensive mistakes turned what had promised to be a tight, low-scoring affair into a Redskins blowout, giving Washington a 15-0 lead that would never seriously be challenged, took the fans out of the game and created a clear-cut and devastating Turning Point of the Game.
Turning Point: Playmakers Come Up Short
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