There are times when a turning point of a game isn't obvious. In Sunday night's Vikings win over the Bears, there was a crystal-clear shift in momentum that, depending on how things go in the final four games of the regular season, could be the difference between winning the division and being at home when the playoffs begin.
With a little more than five minutes to play in the first half, the Bears led 7-3 and had a first down on the Vikings 1-yard line, following a 25-yard run by rookie Matt Forte. The Bears appeared ready to go up 14-3 and put the Vikings in a deep hole.
Instead of trying to force the ball in on the ground, the Bears got cute on first down and tried a fade pass to Greg Olsen. The pass fell incomplete and the Vikings were still standing strong. On second down, the Bears tried to get Forte through up the middle, but he was stuffed by Chad Greenway and Vinny Ciurciu for no gain. With the Metrodome crowd whipped into a frenzy, the Bears tried to slip fullback Jason Davis through on another run up the gut. Fred Evans stood him up, leaving Lovie Smith with a big decision – kick a field goal to go up 10-3 or go for the throat.
He chose the latter and the Vikings stymied Forte again – as Jared Allen and Pat Williams combined to keep him out of the end zone. The defense celebrated keeping the Bears out of the end zone and the offense came out on the field sharing the same exuberance.
With the Bears expecting the Vikings to run on first down, the Vikes crossed them up with a bomb to Bernard Berrian. Thanks to a blown coverage, Frerotte hit Berrian in stride for an NFL-record 99-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 10-7 lead.
The crowd was now whipped up into a lather and, after the Bears had to punt on their next drive, the Bears coaches again took a risk that would burn them. The Vikings seemed content to run the ball and kill some clock late in the first half, but prior to the two-minute warning, the Bears called a pair of timeouts in hopes of getting the ball before the 2-minute warning. Instead, the Vikings would convert the first down and go on to score another touchdown in the final minute.
What for all intents looked to be a 14-3 deficit for the Vikings in the late stages of the first half became a 17-7 halftime lead – a turnaround of 21 points that created not only the turning point of the game, but perhaps the turning point of the season.
Turning point: 21-point turnaround
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