Turning point: Vinatieri turns back the clock

Adam Vinatieri (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Adam Vinatieri has never been money from beyond 50, but he was against the Vikings. See that stats that show how much Vinatieri turned back time to find the distance from 53 yards.

Sometimes it seems that what goes around comes around. A week after an improbable comeback win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Minnesota Vikings appeared to be heading to overtime after scoring two touchdowns in less than five minutes, but it would be another nail-biting drive at the end of regulation that sealed the final turning point of the game … and this time it went against the Vikings.

The Vikings offense had been lethargic for most of the game, but trailing by 14 points with 10 minutes to go the offense rallied for two touchdowns, tying the game on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph with just 31 seconds to play. There was some question as to how aggressive the Colts would get with rookie Andrew Luck at the helm, but that question got answered quickly.

Starting from his 20-yard line after Blair Walsh's kick boomed out of the end zone, Luck fired a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Donnie Avery with a zip pass to his left to get the ball to the 40-yard line. As the Colts used their second timeout with 24 seconds to play, the focus became how close the Colts needed to get in order to give veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri enough room to attempt a potential game-winning field goal? Only four times in his six-plus seasons with the Colts had Vinatieri made a field goal of 50 yards or more, so the conventional wisdom was that the Colts would have to get to about the 30-yard line or so to confidently have him attempt a game-winning field goal.

It wouldn't take long for the Colts to get to make that decision almost moot.

On the next play, Luck fired another 20-yard pass to Reggie Wayne, giving the Colts a first down on the Vikings 40-yard line. After an offside penalty on Everson Griffen got the Colts to the 35-yard line, Luck spiked the ball with 12 seconds to play and Indianapolis made the call for Vinatieri.

Known as one of the top clutch kickers in league history, kicking long-distance field goals has never been a Vinatieri forte. As he lined up, he had attempted just 25 field goals of 50 yards or more in his 17 seasons. He had made just 12 of them. It was anything but assured, given that, since 2003, he had made just 4 of 12 field goals from long distance.

However, those stats meant nothing when the game was on the line. Vinatieri boomed the 53-yard field goal – his longest made field goal since 2002 – with room to spare.

Just as Vikings fans saw their team rally in the final seconds when momentum was firmly on the side of the other team a week before, so it was that they died by the sword against the Colts, as Vinatieri showed why he is a Hall of Fame candidate. He gave Luck his first NFL win and delivered a death blow to the Vikings with a big-foot kick in the final seconds.

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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