Cassel provides spark as Vikings are kings of England

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2013 - 7:07 AM

Matt Cassel sparked the offense, and the defense stopped the Steelers when it counted most.

LONDON – Matt Cassel paced the sideline, hands on his hips. His teammates stared at the scoreboard clock, hoping those final seconds would just tick, tick, tick away.

They had seen this horror show before. Twice already, actually. Back-to-back final minute collapses seared their memory as they tried to prevent a heartbreak trifecta on Sunday evening 4,000 miles from home.

“You get in that situation again and you think, ‘Ah, here it goes again,’ ” left guard Charlie Johnson said.

On the field, the Vikings defensive line looked at each other in the huddle and shared a singular edict: Somebody has to make a play.

Turns out, they all just decided to meet at the quarterback. A wave of rushers enclosed Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with less than 10 seconds left and the Steelers practically within spitting distance of the goal line and overtime.

Everson Griffen hauled him down from behind and knocked the ball free, Kevin Williams pounced it and the Vikings’ European experience ended with a giant exhale after they secured a 34-27 victory before a festive announced crowd of 83,518 at Wembley Stadium.

“Man, we needed that bad,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “I’d hate to lose this game and have a seven-hour plane ride back.”

It’s perhaps overly dramatic to label Week 4 a must-win, but anything less than that would have sent the Vikings season on an undesirable path. Their first victory will be memorable on many levels, first and foremost because a “home” game took place on foreign soil.

The Vikings spent much of the week in seclusion outside London, attempting to rid themselves of frustration after two consecutive late-game collapses. And within that cocoon they learned that Cassel would take over at quarterback for Christian Ponder, sidelined by a fractured rib.

So when Leslie Frazier’s defense made one final play to thwart Pittsburgh’s rally and keep the Steelers winless at 0-4, a palpable sense of relief flowed inside the locker room.    

“We’ve had some tough losses,” Frazier said. “In the fourth quarter of every one of these ballgames we were right there. So to come away with a win in the fashion that we did, this many miles away from home, knowing what it takes to keep a team together after some of those tough losses …”

The focus, of course, shifts to the quarterback situation and how Frazier plans to proceed once the team returns from its bye.

 Cassel gave the offense an unmistakable spark and looked aggressive in throwing the ball downfield, an area sorely lacking with Ponder at the helm. Cassel completed 16 of 25 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns for a 123.4 passer rating.

Frazier was noncommittal about his quarterback plans for the Carolina game in two weeks. Ponder was asked if he still believes he’s the starter.

“That’s what I expect [but] that’s out of my control right now,” he said. “For us, we’re just going to enjoy this win. I’m so proud of Matt and the way he played the whole team played. He couldn’t have played better.”

The offense hummed efficiently behind big plays in the passing game and 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns by Adrian Peterson. Greg Jennings caught two touchdown passes, including a 70-yarder, and Jerome Simpson continued his fast start with 124 yards on 11 catches.

“Matt played phenomenal,” Jennings said. “He’s a true professional. Matt doesn’t carry himself as a backup. He carries himself as starter. He prepares as a starter. He got an opportunity and he came up big.”

Cassel’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jennings late in the third quarter gave the Vikings a 34-17 lead and they looked firmly in control. But the positive vibe quickly melted as Roethlisberger kept firing passes against a depleted Vikings secondary. Big Ben attempted 51 passes and finished with 383 yards.

  • VIKINGS 34, PITTSBURGH 27

    Up next: vs. Carolina • noon Oct. 14 • Mall of America Field • TV: Ch. 9 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close