Turning point: Turnovers turn the game

The Vikings had a lot of things to concern themselves with Sunday from the noise to the high-powered Saints offense, but it was shooting themselves in the foot too many times that killed the Vikings' chance to advance to the Super Bowl

For most of the 2009 season, the Vikings have prided themselves on not turning over the football. The offense hasn't always hit on all cylinders, but one thing that had been consistent was that they didn't give away points by shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. That changed in a huge way in the biggest game of the season, as turnovers killed the Vikings and created a disheartening turning point of the game.

The Vikings came out on fire early on, scoring on their first two drives and, with the game tied 14-14 with 1:13 to play in the half, following a big hit from special teams player Eric Frampton that caused a Reggie Bush fumble, the Vikings had the ball on the 4-yard line facing a second-and-goal. In a worst-case scenario, the Vikings would likely come away with a field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead if not a 21-14 lead. But on second down, Brett Favre handed off to Adrian Peterson. The ball came loss and Saints linebacker Scott Fujita recovered, allowing the Saints to run out the clock in the first half and, instead of trailing at halftime, remained tied 14-14.

With the game tied 21-21 in the third quarter, the Vikings drove into Saints territory down to the 35-yard line. Again, with a chance to gain a few more yards, if nothing else, they would be in line to attempt a long field goal that would give them the lead. On a play in which Favre was hit low, his pass was intercepted by Jonathan Vilma, killing another scoring chance and keeping the game tied.

With the game still tied 21-21 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Vikings had the ball on their own 27-yard line. With Favre hobbling after injuring his left ankle, the Vikings were trying to run the ball. Percy Harvin appeared to fumble on a 10-yard run that gained a first down, but pulled it back in as he hit the ground. On the next play, Harvin took a pitch and fumbled just outside the 10-yard line. A scramble ensued and the Saints recovered on the Vikings 7-yard line. Three plays later, the Saints would score a touchdown to take a 28-21 lead. With 12:39 to play in the fourth quarter.

On the Vikings next possession, a 27-yard run by Peterson and a 30-yard completion to Bernard Berrian had the Vikings on the Saints 18-yard line looking to tie the game. Favre completed a slant pass to Berrian, who was inside the 10-yard when he was stripped by cornerback Tracy Porter. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma recovered and once again denied the Vikings points and kept the score 28-21.

After rallying to tie the game 28-28, the Vikings looked to have a chance to win it at the end of regulation. With the ball on the 33-yard line with 19 seconds to go, they appeared ready to run one more play up the middle and, even if it gained nothing, the Vikings would have a chance for a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell. But, after a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty backed them up five yards and forced the Vikings to pass, Favre tried to throw a pass across his body that was intercepted by Tracy Porter, killing the drive and sending the game to overtime.

The Vikings never got the ball in overtime and the emotions in the locker room following the game were palpable. The Vikings never got the ball in overtime and had to watch helplessly as the Saints got into field goal position for the win.

"You look back and obviously there were some missing plays," linebacker Ben Leber said. "It didn't matter what was being thrown at us or how we lost the game. We win and lose as a team. The offense has our back and we have their back. We just didn't make enough players."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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