Turnovers Key to Vikings' Success

Chester Taylor

The turnover margin in the Vikings' wins and losses this year prove that giveaways and takeaways might be the most important statistics for this team's success.

The Vikings proved again in Sunday's victory over Arizona that winning the turnover battle is the key to victory.

Minnesota forced five turnovers by the Cardinals (two interceptions, three fumbles) and gave away the ball once (fumble) in a 31-26 victory at the Metrodome. Nonetheless, Arizona returned that Chester Taylor fumble for a fourth-quarter touchdown that helped make the game interesting.

This came a week after Miami was able to turn three fourth-quarter miscues by the Vikings into two touchdowns by the defense and rally for a 24-20 victory. Minnesota lost the game and also the turnover battle 3-2.

Considering the Vikings have a plus-8 turnover ratio in their five victories and a minus-9 ratio in their six defeats, the above statistics come as no surprise to Vikings coach Brad Childress.

"Turnovers affect wins and losses and that's all I've ever coached since I've coaches quarterbacks is taking care of the football," Childress said. "When you're the offensive coordinator that's all you talk about. Respect for the football. Value it, fight for it.

"Now that you're doing both, obviously, takeaways end up becoming a part. But turnover margin ends up being huge. It just swings the momentum, whether you score, you don't score, it changes all the field position. Take care of it and you've got a chance to win."

A turnover proved to be the Vikings' undoing in their 19-16 loss to Chicago in Week 3 at the Metrodome. The teams will play again Sunday at Soldier Field.

In that first meeting, the Vikings held a 16-12 lead with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left when quarterback Brad Johnson and running back Chester Taylor failed to connect on a handoff. The fumble was recovered by Chicago and Rex Grossman threw a game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rashied Davis on the ensuing series.

NOTES

  • QB Brad Johnson established season-highs for completions (27), passing yards (271) and touchdowns (three) in the Vikings' victory over Arizona. Johnson's 41 passing attempts were his most in a victory this year. He also completed his four touchdown of the season to Marcus Robinson.

  • RB Chester Taylor finished Sunday's game 1-yard shy of the 1,000-yard mark of the season after running for 136 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown. However, he also fumbled for the third time in the past two games. Two of those, including his miscue Sunday, were returned for touchdowns.

  • FB Jeff Dugan started his second consecutive game Sunday and caught the first touchdown pass of his NFL career. It remains to be seen how long Dugan remains in this role. The Vikings had Naufahu Tahi on the inactive list Sunday but that was because he had been signed off Cincinnati's practice squad just last week.

  • TE Jermaine Wiggins caught six passes for the second consecutive game after not having a catch on Nov. 12 against Green Bay. Wiggins had 52 receiving yards against the Cardinals. He still has only one touchdown reception this season.

  • WR Troy Williamson has been relegated to a fifth receiver role and saw little playing time for a second consecutive game Sunday. Williamson entered the game with an NFL-high 10 dropped passes and the one deep throw that Brad Johnson directed his way wound up going through Williamson's hands.

  • WR Billy McMullen had only two catches against Arizona but one went for a touchdown. McMullen isn't a main target of Brad Johnson's but when the ball is thrown his way he has proven to be consistent in his ability to catch it.

  • WR Marcus Robinson caught his team-leading fourth touchdown pass and also had a season-high seven catches for 82 yards. The game was Robinson's second since returning from a lower-back injury and clearly he had shaken off any rust.

  • SLB Ben Leber was used extensively in nickel situations for the first time this season on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin wasn't happy that Leber was in for only 18 snaps a week earlier against Miami because he usually came out in the nickel. Knowing that teams are going to continue to try to spread out the Vikings and pass against them, Tomlin switched to a three-down linemen, three linebacker, five defensive back set that included Leber. It got him on the field for an additional 15 to 20 plays Sunday; that turned out to be key as he forced two fumbles the Vikings recovered.

  • CB Cedric Griffin started at corner in place of the demoted Smoot and finished tied for second on the team with six tackles. Griffin played despite having a shoulder and neck injury coming into the game. He also suffered a dislocated finger that needed to be put back into place.

  • CB Fred Smoot still saw extensive time playing in a nickel defense that was on the field for much of the day because of the Arizona's use of multiple-receiver sets. Smoot's four tackles were fourth on the team. Although he has technically lost the starting right cornerback job to Griffin, Smoot still plays the right corner spot when he's on the field in the nickel.

  • RG Jason Whittle replaced the injured Artis Hicks (sprained left ankle) for the entire game Sunday. Hicks' injury is believed to be serious enough that Whittle could get another start Sunday at Chicago.

  • RT Mike Rosenthal started in place of Marcus Johnson, who has a sprained left ankle. Johnson was inactive for the game.

  • RT Ryan Cook saw his first action of the season Sunday, playing four series in which Rosenthal sat out. The plan had been put in place by a coaching staff that wanted to get a look at the second-round pick.

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