In a game where the Vikings defense was uncharacteristically giving up big plays, it was the Vikings' ability to make big plays of their own throughout the game that made for Sunday's turning point of the game.
Considering the reputations of the two defenses in the game, the number of big plays was more than a little bit shocking. But, for the Vikings offense, it turned out that all of them were needed.
"Sometimes you just have games like this," cornerback Cedric Griffin said. "You have to give a lot of credit to guys like Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice. They all came up with big plays when we had to have them."
Explosive plays, as defined in NFL terms, are plays of 20 yards or more. The Vikings had a handful of them that made the difference between winning losing – to build a lead, maintain a lead and eventually come from behind for the 33-31 win. The big plays started early and continued throughout the game, providing the key plays that eventually spelled victory.
On the second play of the game, Peterson broke off a 26-yard run that got the Vikings into Ravens territory. Four plays later, Favre found Visanthe Shiancoe on a 19-yard touchdown pass on a play in which the Ravens were offsides, and Favre knew he had a free shot to take at the end zone. Shiancoe twisted his body to make the acrobatic catch and the Vikings had an early 7-0 lead.
On their second drive of the game, the Vikings got a pair of big pass plays – one of 21 yards to Shiancoe and another of 20 yards to Rice on a third-and-7 play, setting up a 3-yard TD strike from Favre to Bernard Berrian to give the Vikings a 14-0 lead with 6:16 to play and gave all the appearances of a potential blowout.
With the Vikings' lead cut to 17-10 with 4:13 to play in the third quarter, Favre connected on a deep pass over the middle to Rice, who broke free for a 63-yard run to the Ravens 8-yard line. While the Vikings couldn't take full advantage of the big play, they got a 22-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell to get the game back to a two-score lead at 20-10.
With the Ravens starting to produce some big plays of their own, the Vikings led 27-17 with 8:35 to play. It was time for a big play to bail them out, and this time it was Peterson who came through. With the ball on the 27-yard line, Peterson broke free for a 58-yard run to the Ravens 15-yard line. The Vikings couldn't cash in on a touchdown, but the play put them in scoring position and Longwell obliged with a 29-yard field goal to make the score 30-17 with 6:01 to play.
The Ravens stormed back against a shell-shocked Vikings defense for a pair of touchdowns in less than two-and-half minutes to take a 31-30 lead, but the Vikings offense had one more big play up its sleeve. With the ball on the Vikings 24-yard line, Favre rolled to his right and saw Rice in single coverage with Frank Walker, whom he burned almost immediately off the line of scrimmage. Favre uncorked a bomb that would have been at a minimum a pass interference penalty. But Rice fought to the ball and made the catch for a 58-yard gain to the Ravens 18-yard line. The Vikings were content to run the ball and make the Ravens burn their timeouts to set up the go-ahead field goal.
While the game came down to Longwell making his field goal and Steven Hauschka missing his, it was the ability of the Vikings offense to put together explosive plays to take the lead, fight off several challenges to the lead and, after falling behind late, pulling one more out of the hat to created the turning point of the game.
Turning point: Game turns on explosive plays
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