Statistics don't always tell the story of a game. When a quarterback throws for more than 300 yards, more times than not, his team loses. Adrian Peterson has topped 100 yards rushing twice this year, but the Vikings are 0-2 in those games. The team that scores first doesn't always win.
But one stat that is almost impossible to deny is giveaways and takeaways. The primary job of any offense is to score points. Short of that, the secondary objective is to avoid giving away the ball on turnovers. In the Vikings' 30-17 loss at Tennessee Sunday, amid a slew of blunders and mistakes, three critical giveaways force fed the Titans the turning point of the game.
Turnovers are always the bane of an offense, but when and where such turnovers happen usually have an impact on the final result. The Titans had one such play in the final minute of the first half, as a shotgun snap came low and the Vikings recovered. But the Vikings didn't have time to capitalize on the turnover and, despite getting a chance for a 48-yard field goal before halftime to steal momentum, Ryan Longwell's kick hit the right upright and fell back no good.
The Vikings weren't so lucky. At three critical times in the game, the Vikings not only failed to gain momentum themselves, they handed the Titans easy opportunities to score.
The first came on the Vikings' opening drive of the game with the Titans having driven to the 2-yard line only to settle for a chip-shot field goal. Seeking to give the Titans defense something different to look at early and prevent Tennessee and its fans from getting vocal, Gus Frerotte threw a pair of passes to seldom-used receiving fullback Naufahu Tahi. On the second straight dump-off pass, linebacker David Thornton stripped Tahi and the Titans recovered on the Vikings 33. Already in field goal range, the Titans converted three third-down plays, the last being a 1-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Chris Johnson to give Tennessee a 10-0 lead 11 minutes into the game.
Flash forward to the second quarter. The Vikings have cut the deficit to 13-7 and, with 5:28 to play, start a drive from their own 16. Ideally, they are looking to moves the chains a couple of times and have control of the clock heading down the stretch of the first half. Instead, Peterson takes a run up the middle and, as he fights for an additional yard, has the ball punched out. The Titans fall on the ball on Minnesota's 11-yard line. After a controversial non-fumble call on a fourth-down play, running back LenDale White banged in from a yard out to give Tennessee a 20-7 lead – with both TDs the result of points off turnovers.
Flash forward further to the fourth quarter. The Vikings are pinned on their 2-yard line and, despite handing the Titans all of their touchdown points, they trail by only six points. If Gus Frerotte can pull off some magic, the Vikings have the chance to drive down the field and win. That wish faded quickly as Nick Harper intercepted Frerotte and gave the Titans the ball on the 6-yard line. On the first play after the pick, Johnson high-stepped in with his second touchdown of the game.
There were plenty of chances for the game to turn one way or the other and it seemed every time the Vikings had a chance to take momentum away, turnovers killed them. The defense gave up drives that resulted in field goals. Turnovers by the offense directly results in 21 points and, in the process, resulted in the turning point of the game.
Turning point: Pointed turnovers
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