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.

A rare miss on a field-goal  attempt by Blair Walsh from 44 yards and a subsequent Steelers field goal cut the Vikings lead to 34-27.

Gulp.

“It was definitely a nail-biter,” Simpson said.

Vikings players — and their fans — probably got down to their nubs as Roethlisberger quickly moved the offense to Vikings 6 with 24 seconds left. A spike and an incomplete pass set up third down.

Considering what happened against Chicago and Cleveland, another blown lead might have sent their season into an abyss.

“We didn’t have the mentality that it’s going to happen again,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said.
This time they finished the job. The Vikings still face an uphill climb at 1-3, but their long flight home Monday morning will feel much different from it did coming over.

“When you get that win, it’s a whole different feeling,” safety Harrison Smith said. “Your body doesn’t hurt so bad. Everybody is happy. You get confidence. That can really build.”

Chip Scoggins • chip.scoggins@startribune.com

  • 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

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore 0 Top 3rd Inning
NY Yankees 0
Kansas City 1 Top 2nd Inning
Cleveland 0
Seattle 1 Top 2nd Inning
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 2 Bottom 2nd Inning
Detroit 0
Pittsburgh 0 Top 2nd Inning
Atlanta 0
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 2 1st Prd 14:49
NY Rangers 1
Detroit 0 1st Prd 14:44
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 0 1st Prd 5:50
Philadelphia 0
Washington 0 1st Prd 14:25
Philadelphia 0
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close