Turning Point: Mistakes Total 26-Point Swing

Even with playing on the road, the Vikings didn't have to put together a perfect game, but three key fumbles, one key penalty and a dropped pass that would have been a touchdown accounted for 26 game-turning points. Eliminating five mistakes would have produced a completely different game.

In a game that was expected to be a tight, hard-fought battle, giving away points was the last thing the Vikings needed to do. But, thanks to their own ineptitude and mistakes, 14 Minnesota points came off the board and Denver scored 12 of its points thanks to Vikings miscues. It all added up to a 22-19 overtime loss thanks to mistake-prone turning points of the game.

The Vikings thoroughly dominated the first quarter of the game (if not on the scoreboard), marching 81 yards on their opening drive for what appeared to be a first-drive touchdown. Chester Taylor ran a sweep from the 3-yard line and appeared to hit the pylon at the front end of the end zone for a touchdown, which was the call on the field. Denver coach Mike Shanahan challenged the ruling and it was determined that Taylor was losing control of the ball in his outstretched hand before it got to the goal line, which made it a fumble and touchback – giving Denver the ball on the 20-yard line and keeping the score 0-0.

The next big momentum swing came with the Vikings trailing 7-3 in the second quarter. With the ball on his own 28, Tarvaris Jackson had wide receiver Troy Williamson 10 yards behind the defense and delivered a perfect strike. But the ball went through Williamson's hands, hit his chest and bounced away, keeping the score 7-3 Denver in what, for all intents, should have been a 17-7 Vikings lead. Two plays later, while fighting for more yardage, Taylor fumbled again – giving Denver the ball at midfield.

The Broncos wasted little time in taking advantage of the turnover, as Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler completed all four of the passes he attempted – the last being a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Tony Scheffler – to give Denver a 14-3 lead it took to halftime.

In the third quarter, the Vikings were pinned on their own 2-yard line following a punt, but that didn't seem to be a big issue after Jackson completed a 16-yard pass to Bobby Wade for a first down. But a pair of false-start penalties pushed the Vikings back to their 8-yard line and a holding penalty on Ryan Cook against Denver DE Elvis Dumervil in the end zone was ruled a safety by league rule – giving the Broncos a 19-3 lead with 13 minutes to play.

The Vikings made a valiant comeback to score twice and convert a pair of two-point conversions to tie the game and, when they won the toss in overtime, it looked like momentum was clearly in their favor. But on the second play of overtime, Jackson saw the pocket collapse and instead of tucking the ball down and taking a sack, he tried to make a play and kept the ball up at head level. His arm was hit, he fumbled and Denver recovered on the Vikings 12. Unwilling to take any chances, Jason Elam came on and kicked the game-winning field goal.

As it would turn out, whether the Vikings won or not, they still wouldn't have made the playoffs because Washington secured the final NFC spot with a win over Dallas. Still, this was a game the Vikings could have and should have won, but a 26-point swing of sure points taken off the board and points given to Denver created the difference in winning and losing and a relatively obvious turning point of the game.

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