In a game in which the Vikings offense struggled to move the ball with any consistency for almost the entire game in a 12-10 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday, it was a pair of big pass plays that provided the turning point of the game.
Since the insertion of Gus Frerotte into the Vikings lineup, they are not only 3-1, but the big play has returned to the passing game – something that was almost nonexistent during the Tarvaris Jackson era as the starting QB. Frerotte nearly became the first Viking in the Brad Childress regime to have a 300-yard passing game. The last time a Viking threw for 300 yards was Sept. 25, 2005, when Daunte Culpepper hit 300 on the nose against the New Orleans Saints. Frerotte had 301 yards, but his final completion on a screen to Adrian Peterson lost five yards and dropped him to 296. But the big-play component of the Vikings passing game made the difference in a game dominated by the defenses.
The Vikings trailed 10-2 with 4:47 to play in the third quarter and were pinned on their own 14-yard line. Needing a spark, Frerotte didn't throw deep, but he found his man in Bernard Berrian on a crossing route for about 10 yards. The rest was blocking and speed, as Berrian kicked on the afterburners and raced 86 yards for a touchdown.
"The pass was designed to get me coming across and try to get a step on their corner," Berrian said. "I got some blocks and was able to turn up the sideline. From there it was foot race and I knew they weren't going to catch me."
The play turned out to be the longest reception of Berrian's career and the longest TD pass of Frerotte's career. It was also only three yards short of the Vikings' franchise record for the longest TD, which was set in 1962 by QB Fran Tarkenton and WR Charley Ferguson.
Still, when the Vikings opted to go for an extra point instead of a two-point conversion attempt, the team trailed 10-9 with four minutes to play in the third quarter. Little did the Vikings know at the time, that score would hold until two minutes remained in the game, when the Vikings again called upon the deep pass for a big play.
This time is was Aundrae Allison who was asked to make a play. With a second-and-20 play from the Vikings 32-yard line, Frerotte launched a bomb down the right sideline for Allison, who seemed to hesitate getting his arms up to make the grab. Although it didn't look like pass interference, the call was made and Vikings gained 43 yards to get into immediate field-goal range.
"I don't know what it looked like from the stands, but there was no doubt (Detroit CB Leigh Bodden) grabbed me," Allison said. "He caught my (left) arm and pushed me in the back. Fortunately, the ref was right there and saw it. It may not have looked like much, but it was the right call."
Bodden had a far different version of events.
"I was underneath him," Bodden said. "It was Cover-2 and I looked back for the ball and it looked like he was overthrown. He reached out to try to get it with one hand and that was it. I talked to the official after (the play) and he said I ran up his back and didn't look back to the ball. I said if I don't look back for the ball and I don't touch him, that's not pass interference. But that's what he said and that's what they called."
Referree Tony Corrente explained it this way after the game: "The defender played through the back of the receiver. ... Any contact at all, he played through him and that's what was called."
Regardless of who you choose to believe, the Vikings' ability to make big pass plays – whether on completions or long pass interference penalties (a 42-yard pass interference penalty on the Saints in last Monday's game with 1:11 to play led to that game-winning field goal) – made the difference between winning and losing for a second straight game. And, in the process, the passing game provided the turning point of the game in a less-than-perfect victory.
Turning point: Two pass plays
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