Turning point: Turnovers turn the game

The one thing that seemed a given heading into Monday's game was that the Vikings couldn't expect the Packers offense to turn the ball over. Through three games, they had only done it once, but it was two turnovers in the first 19 minutes of Monday's win that became the turning point of the game.

On a night when about the only certain in Monday's game between the Vikings and the Packers was that Green Bay wouldn't turn the ball over, it was a pair of turnovers by quarterback Aaron Rodgers that created a critically important turning point of the game that improved the Vikings to 4-0 on the 2009 season and dropped the Packers to 2-2.

Coming into the game, the Packers led the NFL in the important giveaway-takeaway ratio. Through three games, they were at plus-8, having posted nine takeaways – including a league-high seven interceptions – and just one giveaway. The conventional wisdom was that if the Vikings were going to beat Green Bay, it would be the result of long drives that they would have to earn. Instead, a pair of early turnovers set the tempo for the game.

The first came on the opening drive of the game. The Packers had started from their own 26 yard-line and Rodgers had converted three first downs – on passes of 13 yards to Ryan Grant, 13 yards to Greg Jennings and 18 yards to Jermichael Finley to give Green Bay a first down on the Vikings 24-yard line with a chance to silence the raucous crowd of more than 63,000.

But, on a first-down pass, Rodgers was flushed from the pocket, hit by Jared Allen and Brian Robison and fumbled. Chad Greenway dove on the loose ball and, after it looked as though the Packers would get three points at a minimum on the opening drive, instead they found themselves on the sidelines and the crowd in full throat cheering on the Vikings offense.

As good teams do, the Vikings took advantage of the turnover. Starting from the 33-yard line, Adrian Peterson ran seven times for 26 yards and Brett Favre completed all five of his passes in a 12-play drive. Instead of potentially being down 3-0 or 7-0 in the first few minutes of the game, with 3:20 to play in the first quarter the Vikings had a 7-0 lead.

After quickly tying the game 7-7 and then forcing the Vikings offense into a three-and-out on their second drive, the Packers were driving again for what had all the appearances of a score that would give them the lead. But, once again when they got into scoring range, the Vikings defense stepped up.

The Packers had once again taken the crowd out of the game by converting a fourth-and-3 play from the Vikings 36-yard line and appeared primed for a go-ahead score of some kind, but as Rodgers tried to hit Greg Jennings on a sideline pass, Antoine Winfield jumped the route and made an interception on the sidelines.

"That is a play they really like," Winfield said. "When (Jennings) made his break, I took a look and saw the ball coming and made a play on it. It was a big play at the time because they had taken momentum away from us. It didn't seem like they ever really got it back fully after that."

The Vikings made the Packers pay for their mistake again. This time it was a 10-play drive that featured a trio of third-down passes from Favre – one of 24 yards to Sidney Rice, a 16-yarder to Bernard Berrian and a 14-yard touchdown to Rice that re-established momentum firmly on the side of the Vikings.

While the Packers would briefly get momentum back on a fumble return touchdown by Clay Matthews, the Vikings responded with a score of their own late in the first half and another on their first drive of the second half to take a 28-14 lead that would never be seriously challenged.

On a night where about the only thing that could be expected was that the Packers wouldn't give the ball away, it was a pair of turnovers and the capitalizing on them by the Vikings that made the difference in keeping momentum on the side of the Vikings, deflating the Packers offense and creating the turning point of the game.


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