Turning Point: Turnovers ... Again

In the first half, a turnover gave the Bucs early momentum. In the second half, turnovers kept the Vikings from making a comeback.

It really has become a tired storyline throughout the season — turnovers at key times killing the Vikings. It could be argued the Vikings would have won the season opener vs. the Bears and games against the Panthers and Bills if not for too many silly turnovers. Sunday's loss was handed to Tampa Bay both early and late, and a couple of plays typified that dilemma that has haunted the Vikings all season and created more than one turning point of a game.

Coming into the week of practice, the Vikings mantra had been to play mistake-free football. That plan blew up on the opening kickoff, as Nick Davis fumbled the kick and the Bucs recovered on the Vikings 21-yard line. Less than two minutes later, the Bucs converted the mistake into a touchdown and had an early 7-0 lead.

The mistake was compounded when the Vikings had a 40-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss negated by a holding call on Corbin Lacina. When the drive sputtered after the penalty, the Bucs opened up a 14-0 lead and for a third straight year forced the Vikings to abandon their original game plan.

However, the Vikings clawed their way back from a 24-0 deficit to trail 31-17 late in the third quarter, until turnovers again buried any chance of winning. After driving for a score to cut the Tampa lead to 31-17, the Vikings executed an onside kick to perfection. With one solid drive, the Vikings had the chance to be down by just seven points after being outplayed for three quarters.

But turnovers would again haunt the team. Unwilling to take a sack, Daunte Culpepper floated a wounded duck over the middle that was intercepted by Warren Sapp. It came right to Sapp — a player hard to miss in the middle of the field — and all the momentum the Vikings had built came crashing down. The Bucs would score another touchdown following the turnover and the game was out of reach.

Mike Tice has been pulling out what remains of his hair all season over a league-worst turnover ratio. Against a team like Detroit or Chicago, you can overcome turnovers. Against the Bucs, you can't. Tampa made the big plays early and late, and two big turnovers provided the turning points of the game.

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