Turning Point: Swirling Winds

The wind played a big part in coaching decisions and player performances Sunday in Foxboro, both helping and hurting the Vikings at different points of the game.

It's rare when an unseen force can be a difference-maker in a game. But in Sunday's 24-17 win by New England, the strong winds that swept over Gillette Stadium affected both teams and created the turning point of the game.

The problems created by the wind were widespread and made more of a difference than any individual player. There were too many examples of its effect to ignore.

* First quarter, 9:04 to play. The Vikings drive to the New England 23-yard line but have to try a field goal into the wind. Knowing he has to keep the kick low to have a chance, Gary Anderson's attempt is blocked and the score remains 0-0.

* First quarter, 51 seconds to play. The Vikings' second drive has stalled and the Patriots call a time out to force Minnesota to kick into the wind. Kyle Richardson's punt goes just 26 yards, the Patriots take over in Minnesota territory and score to take a 14-0 lead.

* Second quarter, 1:14 to play. Faced with fourth-and-10 from the Vikings 31, the Patriots aren't willing to try a field goal into the wind. Instead, they try a pass, QB Tom Brady is sacked and the Vikings take over. They drive 61 yards for a TD to cut the halftime deficit to 21-7.

* Third quarter, 12:21 to play. Again concerned about the wind in their face, the Patriots go on fourth-and-2. Brady is stuffed on a sneak attempt and the Vikings take over. They pin the Patriots deep and, following a 23-yard punt into the wind, the Vikings get a short field to work with and score a TD to cut the Patriots lead to 21-14.

* Third quarter, 3:07 to play. Another Patriots drive fizzles and the ensuing punt goes just 29 yards. The Vikings take advantage and move in close enough to kick a field goal as the game moves to fourth quarter, making the score 21-17.

* Fourth quarter, 7:44 to play. Trailing 24-21, the Vikings are on the New England 22-yard line. Disdaining a fourth-and-8, Mike Tice opts for a field goal into the wind. Anderson's attempt knuckles wide left and the Vikings never get another scoring opportunity.

With all of the big-play athletes on the field, every time something happened to change the tide of the game it wasn't a particular player that made the difference, it was a wind that came blowin' in from across the sea. And, in the process, the gusts created the turning point of the game.

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