It was almost déjà vu-vu-vu for the Minnesota Vikings this week as they again led at halftime for the fourth straight week—only to have the game come down to the final minutes. But Matt Cassel and the offense put up enough points, and the defense came up with a big play when it needed to, and the Vikes beat the Steelers 34-27. While the Vikings’ record stands at 1-3, their season may be salvaged, though it will certainly prove difficult.
5 Things I Loved
1. Matt Cassel
I loved his on-field confidence. I loved his sharp passes. I loved the fact that he threw to someone other than Kyle Rudolph. Look, we have two great receivers! One is a two-time Pro Bowler! The other can perform acrobatic flips over opposing defenders! More than anything, I loved the fact that Cassel didn’t turn the ball over. Not once. To be fair, the Steelers did drop two possible interceptions and the Vikings did recover a Cassel fumble, but the stat sheet does not lie. I’ve been arguing all year that if the Vikings stop turning the ball over, they will win games. Do the Vikings have a quarterback controversy? You betcha. I admire Leslie Frazier’s integrity and leadership for standing behind Christian Ponder after yesterday’s game, but let’s be honest. If Ponder struggles against the Panthers in two weeks, or the Giants in three, I think we’ll see a quarterback change.
2. Greg Jennings Still Has Wheels
Although Jerome Simpson beat Jennings in catches and total yards, Jennings caught the ball when it counted for two touchdowns. Check out this guy’s wheels on the 70-yard TD pass in the 1st quarter. How many 30-year-olds do you know who have legs like this? Alright, alright the Steelers do have the oldest defense in the NFL, but still: wheels.
Despite putting up decent numbers this season, Adrian Peterson has been pretty quiet since he ripped a 78-yard run the first play from scrimmage in Week 1. But look at his line: 23 rushes, 140 yards, 2 TDs, including one 60-yard chomp and stomp. AD might be getting hot at about the same time as he did last year.
4. The Offensive Line
I was worried after last week’s game against the Browns. 6 sacks?! I know the Browns’ defense is much improved, but we can’t afford too many more cracked QB ribs, whether they belong to Ponder or anyone else. But this week, the O-line did their job splendidly. Peterson had a great day, Jennings and Simpson combined for more than 200 yards, and Cassel suffered only one sack for no yards lost. Let’s hope they keep it up, especially against a stingy Panthers defense.
5. Jared Allen and Chad Greenway
I’m putting these guys together because, overall, the offense deserves more credit for this win than the defense. Allen: this guy was all over Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ sad sack O-line. 2.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, 1 pass defended. Greenway was also a beast: 10 tackles, an interception and a sack. Allen and Greenway truly led the defensive effort yesterday, woeful as it was at times. Their leadership will continue to be crucial down the stretch. Too bad neither plays cornerback.
5 Things I Hated
1. The Secondary
I’m not sure if things would have been much different if Chris Cook, Jamarca Sanford and A.J. Jefferson weren’t injured. Quarterbacks have been shredding the secondary all season. Josh Robinson led the team with 12 tackles, but it wasn’t because he was dominant. It was because Big Ben threw for 383 yards. I’m glad that rookie CB Xavier Rhodes got some more playing time, and he made a nice stop here and there. But who is Andrew Sendejo? And why is the only Google image you can find of Sendejo an image of him shirtless during the preseason? I’m worried.
5 penalties for 89 yards is not good. It isn’t in the danger zone, but when you give the opposing team nearly another football field worth of yardage in mistakes, you are apt to be struggling.
3. Blair Walsh Possibly Not Being Clutch
Walsh misses a 44-yard field goal in the 4th quarter (after making a 54-yarder earlier in the game), which would have put the Vikings up 37-24, and, to my mind, would have put the game away. This guy had a great rookie season last year, and continues to kick a great football. But is he clutch? The jury is out on this one.
4. The Vikes’ Inability to Put Games Away
Walsh misses a fairly easy field goal, and the Steelers march down the field twice in the final six minutes, first making a field goal of their own, and then storming down into the red zone until Everson Griffen miraculously stripped the ball from Roethlisberger. The Vikings should have beat the Lions and the Browns. They could have beat the Bears. They could have lost to the Steelers. In the first three games, both the offense and defense played roles in each loss. In Week 4, I would attribute more blame to the defense, although they came through in the end. Stay tuned for a season full of high-scoring, down-to-the-wire games (except for the Seahawks game. Those guys are scary).
5. Zygi Wilf Drama
Shout out to my Uncle Casey, who has drawn me to this story. With the Vikings set to build a billion-dollar stadium, half of which will be publicly financed, Wilf has been hit with civil racketeering charges, costing him $84.5 million in damages. Hope that doesn’t put a dent in the other half of the stadium he’ll be financing.
- Vikings Improve To 1-3, Defeat Steelers In London (thevikingage.com)