The anti-Christian Ponder Vikings fans will be happy now that the 2012 first-round draft choice had to sit out Sunday’s game in London because of a rib injury and that in his place Matt Cassel had a big day in the 34-27 victory over the Steelers, completing 16 of 25 passes for 248 yards and no interceptions, good for a 123.4 quarterback rating.
But contrary to blaming Ponder, all the quarterback experts out there should admit that after the past two losses — in which the Bears and Browns both scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute — the Vikings defense came through and stopped the Steelers from sending the game into overtime at the end.
Pittsburgh marched from its own 22-yard line to the Vikings 6. Only a sack and fumble seemed to keep the game from going into overtime.
With 1 minute, 43 seconds to play, the Steelers took possession of the ball on their own 22, and Ben Roethlisberger completed six passes in a row, not counting two spikes to stop the clock.
But just when it looked like the Vikings defense would fail to stop an opponent in the final moments for the third week in a row, this time it came through with Everson Griffen stripping the ball from Roethlisberger and Kevin Williams recovering it with 6 seconds to go, saving the game from going into overtime and ending the Vikings’ three-game losing streak. Actually, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if the Vikings recovered or not, because the clock likely would have run out on the Steelers anyway.
Roethlisberger did test the Vikings defense as the two-time Super Bowl winner completed 36 of 51 passes 383 yards and a 90.6 rating. And the Steelers did have 29 first downs to the Vikings’ 16 and 434 yards total gained to 393 by the Vikings.
The Vikings had their share of great contributors at Wembley Stadium.
There was Jared Allen, who was in the Steelers’ faces all day with 2½ sacks and a number of hurries; linebacker Chad Greenway, who had 10 tackles, second on the team, plus a sack and a key interception; and fullback Jerome Felton, back from serving a suspension during the first three losses. With Adrian Peterson back to showing his NFL MVP form, breaking off a 60-yard run for a touchdown on his way to rushing for 140 yards and two scores on 23 carries, it demonstrated how important Felton’s blocking was for him.
And then there was Greg Jennings, who hadn’t made much of an impact in the Vikings offense after the former Packers wide receiver signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract in March. Jennings scored two important touchdowns, catching a very short pass from Cassel and running it 70 yards for a score to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, then a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter for a 34-17 Vikings lead, an important score with the Steelers marching up and down the field at will in the second half.
The Vikings’ big acquisition at receiver from last year, Jerome Simpson, not only caught seven passes for 124 yards, but he also recovered a Cassel fumble as the ball bounced forward near the end of the first half. That set up a Blair Walsh field goal for a 20-10 lead at halftime.
Now the Vikings can enjoy the bye week because of the victory and get ready to play a real home game Oct. 13 against Carolina, a team they should handle.
Rick Adelman is looking forward coaching to coaching the Timberwolves for a second season after there was some question he would return because of his wife’s health.
“I’m looking forward to the season. It’s a process with my wife where you don’t know about it,” he said as the team got ready for training camp. “I thought it would be something where we would know fairly quick. The summer just kind of played itself out, where she’s doing better and everything, but it didn’t happen all of a sudden. So I really wasn’t sure.”
Adelman looks for the team to be better this year.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces that can score,” he said. “A good offensive team, but we’re going to have to find a way to defend, and that’s probably going to be the key to the whole thing. And injuries. We’ve got to stay away from injuries.”
In particular about the offense, he said: “I think we’re definitely going to be a much better shooting team. Last year we were the worst in the league in three-point shooting. We got a lot of ’em, we just didn’t make any. But the guys we have now, I think you’re going to see a definite improvement there. We’re going to be much more flexible offensively. With Kevin [Love] coming back now and everybody here for another year, I think the team has a chance to be pretty good offensively.”