Turning Point: Special Returns

In a game in which the Vikings were severely outplayed in the first half against Seattle, it was a pair of returns by the special teams that kept the Vikings' first- and second-team players in the game 17-17 at halftime for a special teams turning point.

In the preseason, especially the first preseason game of the year, turning points typically come in the first half when all of the players on the field are those expected to make the team. The first- and second-team offense and defense consisted of players that are fully expected to make the 53-man roster. But on special teams, it might be the only chance for a player to distinguish himself as he battles to find a roster spot. In a first half dominated by the Seahawks Friday night at the Metrodome, it was a pair of returns on the special teams that created the Turning Point of the Game.

Trailing 10-0 less than eight minutes into the game, rookie Darius Reynaud provided the Vikings with their first spark of the night. Taking a kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, Reynaud returned the kick 53 yards to the Seattle 49-yard line. After setting up the offense with a short field, it took just five plays for the Vikings to make good on the field position, as a pair of passes from Tarvaris Jackson to Bernard Berrian got the Vikings into scoring range before Jackson hit Thomas Tapeh with a short slip for a 6-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 10-7.

With the Vikings still trailing by three points with five minutes remaining in the half, rookie Jaymar Johnson took a punt from his own 18-yard line, found a seam and raced 23 yards to get the Vikings in great field position at their own 41-yard line. A pair of third-down conversions from Gus Frerotte to Aundrae Allison got the Vikings into scoring position and, while the drive would stall out at that point, the punt return had put the team in position to score and the Vikings could at least settle for a 35-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 40 seconds to play.

In both instances, the returns set up scores for the offense that helped overcome a half in which the Seahawks controlled the flow and tempo of the game throughout. During the regular season, there will be games in which the Vikings offense or defense will struggle and will need to be bailed out by the special teams. They got that twice Friday, sending the first- and second-teamers to halftime tied 17-17, using the unheralded special teams play to create the Turning Point of the Game.

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