Mark Craig's five extra points

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2013 - 12:46 AM
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Matt Cassel, right, took over for the injured Christian Ponder as Vikings quarterback, and something changed: The Vikings completed deep passes.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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1. Cassel finds his deep ball

Christian Ponder was, statistically, the worst deep-ball thrower in the league a year ago. He also threw fewer deep balls than any other qualifying QB. A league-low 7.5 percent of his 2012 passes were thrown at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Only 25 percent were completed, also a league low. Enter Matt Cassel. Cassel’s first two deep balls Sunday — to Cordarrelle Patterson into the end zone from the Pittsburgh 38 and a 45-yarder to Jerome Simpson — were badly overthrown. But Cassel bounced back to finish 2-for-4 on throws that traveled at least 20 yards. The 51-yard completion to Simpson traveled 21 yards, and the 16-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings was more than 4 yards deep into the end zone. “When you have 28 [Adrian Peterson], the defense has to respect him by loading that box,” Simpson said. “After that, just give the receivers a chance. Just throw it and we’ll try to make a play.”

2. Run defense puts pressure on Big Ben

The Steelers entered the game ranked 30th in the league in rushing (3.3 per carry). The Vikings, however, came in ranked 22nd in average yards rushing allowed per carry (4.4). The Steelers got a boost from rookie Le’Veon Bell, making his NFL debut after spraining his foot in the preseason. Bell scored twice, including an 8-yarder around right end that was far too easy. But he also averaged only 3.6 yards, gaining 57 on 16 carries. And 14 of those yards came at the end of the first half, with the Steelers just running out the clock at midfield. Overall, the Steelers were held to 77 yards on 21 carries (3.7).

3. Felton: ‘Glad that month’s over’

Fullback Jerome Felton wasn’t dominant, but he did help the running game with his return from a three-game suspension. “I feel great,” the Pro Bowler said. “I’m just glad that month is over. It was a long one.” During last year’s 2,097-yard season, Peterson averaged 6.4 yards with Felton in the backfield and 4.6 yards without him. Sunday, Peterson ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (6.1). He had 128 of those yards and both touchdowns on 18 carries (7.1) with Felton on the field. Although Peterson came up short on third-and-3 with 1:56 left in the game, Felton and Peterson did make the Steelers burn all three of their timeouts on that drive. “I was rusty,” Felton said. “But I was physical and we obviously ran the ball well.”

4. Brown contained ... sort of

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown entered the game ranked second in the league in number of 20-yard catches with seven. The Vikings somewhat contained him, although slot cornerback Josh Robinson probably is glad the Vikings play the Steelers only once every four years. Brown had a game-high 12 catches, but only 88 yards with a long of 15. His 7.3-yard average was nearly 9 yards lower than his season average. Of course, Brown also beat Robinson badly on a deep ball into the end zone. Robinson basically tackled him before the ball arrived. The 48-yard pass interference penalty set up a 1-yard rushing touchdown.

5. At ‘home,’ 4,000 miles away

Vikings fans held their own against the league’s most dedicated traveling fan base. “I was actually shocked that it was kind of a home-game kind of feel,” safety Harrison Smith said. “I was thinking it would be split with maybe some NFL fans just coming for the show. But it really felt like a home game.” The Vikings also responded well to a “home” “noon” game that was played at 6 p.m. 4,000 miles from the Metrodome. The first two possessions produced 10 points. After back-to-back three-and-outs, Adrian Peterson scored a 60-yard touchdown on the Vikings’ first offensive snap of the second quarter. Not a bad start. “It’s easy to say you got jet lag, you have to practice somewhere else,” Smith said. “But it really felt pretty comfortable.”

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Pittsburgh 0 Bottom 6th Inning
Cincinnati 1
Tampa Bay 0 Top 5th Inning
Baltimore 2
Chicago Cubs 0 Top 4th Inning
NY Yankees 1
St. Louis 0 Top 4th Inning
Milwaukee 1
NY Mets - D. Gee 2:40 PM
Arizona - B. McCarthy
Atlanta - J. Teheran 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - C. Lee
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Cleveland - Z. McAllister 6:08 PM
Detroit - A. Sanchez
Washington - T. Roark 6:10 PM
Miami - J. Fernandez
Seattle - F. Hernandez 7:05 PM
Texas - Y. Darvish
Boston - C. Buchholz 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - J. Danks
Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
Toronto 0 Postponed
Minnesota 0
Oakland - T. Milone 9:05 PM
LA Angels - T. Skaggs
Colorado - J. De La Rosa 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Los Angeles - P. Maholm 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Chicago 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Indiana 6:00 PM
Orlando
Atlanta 7:00 PM
Milwaukee
Dallas 7:00 PM
Memphis
Detroit 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Houston 7:00 PM
New Orleans
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
San Antonio
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Miami
Utah 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Washington 7:00 PM
Boston
Toronto 7:00 PM
New York
Golden State 9:30 PM
Denver
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Portland
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Sacramento
Montreal 6:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Columbus 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Dallas 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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