1. Fake punt? Hey, why not?
The execution was lacking, but I can’t argue with the decision to have punter Ryan Quigley throw his first NFL pass. When Quigley attempted the fake punt on fourth-and-4 from his 36-yard line, the Vikings had 73 yards and five first downs early in the third quarter. They trailed only 14-3, but needed a boost from an unlikely source. Enter Quigley and tight end Blake Bell. And Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who read the play and defended it perfectly. “We thought Blake would be [open],” Quigley said. “I wish I was Michael Vick and could think on my toes and get out of there and make something happen.” Or maybe the guy who wore No. 4 the last time the Vikings were here? “Yeah,” Quigley said, “Brett Favre probably would have led Blake a little more and put it on a dime.”
2. ‘Center’ call irritates Vikings
Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer was visibly upset about the penalty on Tom Johnson that allowed the Steelers to re-kick after missing a 51-yard field goal early in the third quarter. The Vikings’ defense had just held Pittsburgh to 3 yards on three downs after a failed fake punt handed the Steelers the ball at the Vikings 36-yard line. The mulligan and 5 yards allowed Chris Boswell to connect from 46 yards for a 17-3 lead. Johnson was called for covering up the long-snapper, a safety rule put in place to protect the center. “The ref said something about my arm was still in the area,” Johnson said. “He basically stands over the center and tells you, you’re good. We moved over, I don’t know, but what we’ve seen from the film, I was still legit. We thought we were legit.”
3. A concerning tale of two kickers
The roster says the Vikings have one kicker. The production says otherwise. When it comes to field goals in nine games as a Viking, Kai Forbath has made all 19 attempts to erase bad memories of Blair Walsh. However, on PATs, Forbath seems to be channeling Walsh. He missed his fifth PAT as a Viking on Sunday and is now a 50 percent PAT kicker (2-for-4) this season. Asked the same question — Are you concerned about the missed PAT? — Forbath said, “No” and coach Mike Zimmer said, “Yes.” Zimmer said only that one word. Forbath went on to say, “I’m not worried. There isn’t anything wrong with my kicking. It’s not my first time missing a kick. I lifted my head too soon. Just put it through next time.” Judging by the look on Zimmer’s face, that would be a good idea.
4. Blitzburgh ‘dials up’ pressure
For the most part, the Steelers were able to pressure the quarterback with four- and even three-man rushes. Their home opener and facing Case Keenum had much to do with that. But there were three straight snaps in the second quarter when Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler reminded everyone that this is indeed “Blitzburgh.” After Keenum caught the Steelers off-guard with a 24-yard pass to Adam Thielen on first-and-10, Butler went after Keenum with three straight five-man blitzes. Keenum threw three incompletions under heavy pressure as the Vikings stalled at the Pittsburgh 24 and had to settle for a field goal. “They dialed up three in a row there,” Keenum said. “We actually had [Stefon] Diggs [open] on the second play in the end zone running. I tried to get it to him, but Pittsburgh did a great job.”
5. It’s a young man’s position
Sorry, Adrian Peterson, but Dalvin Cook is reminding us that running back will always be a young man’s position. A week after rushing for 127 yards, Cook’s young legs continued to dazzle, particularly on a 25-yard run to within inches of the goal line. Cook gets to the edge quickly, which then shifts the numbers in his favor. Safety Mike Mitchell found that out when Cook made a sharp but subtle cut that caused Mitchell to lose his balance and fall. “I saw an opening, pressed the line of scrimmage and got one on one with the safety,” Cook said. “I know I can make the safety miss. That [cut] has been my game since I first touched the football. I’m going to continue carrying that part of my game over to this level and keep getting better at it.”