Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings postgame analysis

Posted by: under Vikings, Packers, Brad Childress, Adrian Peterson, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Chester Taylor, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell, Sidney Rice, Steve Hutchinson, Vikings road games Updated: October 25, 2009 - 8:31 PM

PITTSBURGH – Missed opportunities was the story of the day for the Vikings in a 27-17 loss to the Steelers.

The Vikings had two turnovers returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, committed 11 penalties and had to settle for a field goal after having the ball at Pittsburgh 1-yard line on first down.
 
The players were frustrated by their missed opportunities, but the overall mood in the locker room was fairly positive.
 
“The season doesn’t end because we lost one game,” Adrian Peterson said.
 
Here are some notes and quotes from the locker room:
 
Questionable call  
The Vikings were upset over a tripping call on tight end Jeff Dugan that negated a 10-yard touchdown catch by Sidney Rice in the fourth quarter.
Dugan cut blocked linebacker James Harrison at the line in what looked like a legal play. The drive ended on LaMarr Woodley’s 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown. "I just cut him," Dugan said. "I don’t know what he saw. It’s disappointing but we have to deal with it."
Said Vikings coach Brad Childress: "You know I didn’t like it because Jeff Dugan is sitting there with a knot on his thigh on a tripping penalty. We blocked 8-7 double-snag fullback flat a thousand times and cut the defensive end just like we cut the defensive end here. So you know, that’s football, cutting the end of the line of scrimmage."
Asked if he got an explanation from the officials, Childress said: "I did not. You guys saw it. What did you guys think?"
 
Down but not out
Percy Harvin was listed as questionable going into the game because of a shoulder injury and he got up slowly after taking a big hit by safety Ryan Clark on a deep throw down the middle in the third quarter.
"Once I got up it was kind of tingling," he said. "It kind of went away. I know that’s going to be the feeling for a couple of weeks until it heals all the way. But I was able to shake it off and finish the game."
He did more than that. Harvin gave the Vikings new life with an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It’s his second kickoff return for a touchdown in seven games. Harvin started down the left sideline, made kicker Jeff Reed miss and then cut it back to the middle at the Steelers 40-yard line.
"I saw two guys had a pretty good angle," Harvin said. "I felt like I could out-run them but seeing the cut-back lane was pretty clear, I took the cut back and got another great block by Dugan."
Harvin, who had 167 yards on five returns, felt he could have broken two more long ones earlier in the game, but he got tripped up. "I have to do a better job of not letting one man bring me down," he said. "I’ll get that cleaned up and start hitting a couple of more."
 
Looking ahead
Monday will start the buildup to Brett Favre vs. the Green Bay Packers Part II. Favre, who led the Vikings to a 30-23 victory over the Packers on Oct. 5 at the Metrodome, will face his former team for the first time ever at Lambeau Field next Sunday. Not surprisingly, Favre isn’t going to buy into the hype.
"We need a win," he said. "They’re going to say the same thing. My career with Green Bay speaks for itself, and the game I played in Lambeau Field, it’s a special place, and that won’t change. Now, for three hours I’ll be on the other side. Do I know what that will feel like? I have no idea, because I’ve never been on the other side.
"But I know our team needs a win and I know it’ll be a tough place to play because it always is. It will make for a good story this week -- Favre going back -- but it’s really about our team. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m just glad that playing those guys at least once is over and done with and we can get on with it."
 
Physical game
Adrian Peterson said he was not upset that he didn’t get the ball on second or third down when the Vikings had the ball at the Steelers’ 1-yard line in the third quarter. Peterson had two chances (one run was negated by an offsides penalty) to get into the end zone. The Vikings ultimately settled for a 18-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell after two incomplete passes.
"That’s tough, especially going against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their defense," Peterson said. "You have to get those seven points. I was highly upset about having to settle for three points."
Peterson rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries and had four catches for 60 yards. He flattened cornerback William Gay on a 29-yard reception late in the fourth quarter. "Clearly I felt like this was the best defense we’ve faced this year," Peterson said. "We knew these guys would be resilient and fight hard. Anything that were going to get, we were going to have to take."
 
Final missed opportunity
Chester Taylor had a screen pass deflect off his hands for an interception and 82-yard touchdown return by linebacker Keyaron Fox with one minute remaining. Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel read the play perfectly and drilled Taylor after the ball bounced off his hands. "I got hit when the ball was coming," Taylor said. "It was good timing on the defense. That was a good play by him. Stuff happens. We have to move on from this."
 
Difference of opinion
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took offense when cornerback Benny Sapp dived to hit him out of bounds in the third quarter. Sapp disagreed with the call. "That was a cheap call," he said. "They know that. Both of our feet were inbounds. I felt like if I leave my feet before he gets out of bounds its OK. I guess that’s not what it is."
 
Too many flags
The Vikings were called for a season-high 11 penalties; the Steelers were assessed only three. Asked if the Vikings had been a bit undisciplined, Rice said: "You can call it that. Everybody on this team is responsible and accountable and that’s just something we’ve got to get back to. I feel like self-inflicted wounds are the worst. We can’t kill ourselves. We will continue to work on those things, try to get everything down and just continue to move on."
 
Red-zone woes
The Vikings entered Sunday’s game ranked first in the NFL in red-zone offense with a 65.2 percent touchdown conversion rate. That success did not continue against the Steelers as the Vikings were 1-for-5 inside the 20-yard line. "We needed to get more points in the red zone, we didn’t need to give up the fumble for a touchdown. There were a lot of reasons we didn’t win, the red zone was one of them," Favre said.
 
Giving credit where it’s due
Keisel had one of the biggest plays when he hit the ball out of Favre’s hand in the fourth quarter, enabling Woodley to recover and go 77 yards for a touchdown. Keisel made the play while going against Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson. "I really didn’t know until I got to the sideline that he was the one that hit the ball," Hutchinson said. "I came down to block him, he made a good move rushing outside and I kind of was driving him like a tackle trying to widen him behind it. I guess he reached out and got a hand on it."
 
Etc.
-- Sunday’s game was the first in NFL history to have three return touchdowns of 75-plus yards in the fourth quarter.
-- Wide receiver Jaymar Johnson caught his first career pass on Sunday, a 9-yard reception from Favre.
-- Vikings rookie safety Jamarca Sanford was a special-teams captain.
 
 

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