In a game in which turning points happened every quarter — and several within each quarter — the turning point in Saturday's 20-17 win for the Vikings may well have been who weren't on the field than those who were.
With 2:07 to play and facing a fourth-and-2 from the Miami 45-yard line, the Vikings called a bootleg for Daunte Culpepper. His options were supposed to be running with the ball or throwing it to Byron Chamberlain. But there was a problem. Chamberlain had been injured two plays earlier and wasn't available. In his place, long snapper Brody Liddiard lined up in Chamberlain's tight end position. Shocked to see him, Culpepper actually tried to push Liddiard out of the huddle, but the long snapper/emergency tight end remained, took a defender with him on a pass pattern and allowed Culpepper to pick up a first down.
Four plays later, facing a 53-yard field with 17 seconds to play, the Vikings would have been tempted to go with Hayden Epstein, since a 53-yarder was considered a few yards beyond Anderson's leg strength. But again, there was a problem. On a kick return earlier in the quarter, Epstein injured his left knee and was not available.
The Vikings had no choice. Anderson had to kick it.
When asked after the game if Anderson would have had the chance to kick the field goal, the general feeling was he wouldn't — Epstein would probably have been given the shot. Instead, the Vikings were in a critical fourth-down situation without the player they expected to be a key ingredient to the success of the play.
Anderson told VU: "The extent of my distance is about 51 or 52 yards. But I would have said I wanted it. A kick like that is like hitting a driver in golf. It comes out low and you have to hook it in."
Being able to succeed on one of those two plays would have been an achievement. To do it twice in the span of less than two minutes was amazing, and the specialists the Vikings normally wouldn't count on in those situations — a long snapper playing tight end and a reliable but short field-goal artist booting a 53-yarder — created the turning point.
Turning Point: Replacement Parts
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