Vikings conquer Steelers in NFL Wembley game
LONDON — A change of continents seemed to do the trick for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“It feels great to get our first home win of the season, our first win of the season, and we had to come all the way to London to get it,” coach Leslie Frazier said.
“The fan noise, we felt at times like we were almost back at Mall of America. It was noisy. There was a lot of purple in those stands, so it was terrific all the way around.”
Adrian Peterson rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns and backup quarterback Matt Cassel passed for 248 yards and two scores to lead the Vikings to their first victory of the season, 34-27 over the winless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Wembley Stadium as part of the NFL’s International Series.
“Obviously we know what 28 (Adrian Peterson) is capable of,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He showed it again today. We didn’t work hard enough to minimize his impact on the game.”
The Vikings had to make a last-minute defensive stand to hang on as Everson Griffen sacked Ben Roethlisberger and forced on a third-and-goal play from the 6 and defensive tackle Kevin Williams recovered with six seconds remaining.
The Vikings improved to 1-3 in large part because they did not commit a turnover with Cassel calling the signals in place of Christian Ponder, who missed the game with a fractured rib. The Vikings had 10 giveaways in their first three games, including at least three in each game.
“We can be a good football team when we don’t turn the ball over,” Frazier said. “Matt did a perfect job in that area, made some nice throws so I’m very happy for him and what he was able to accomplish.”
Cassel completed 16 of 25 passes and both scores went to Greg Jennings. Jerome Simpson caught seven passes for 124 yards for the Vikings.
“It was a great night for me, and I was really excited about the fact that I was able to help contribute to the team and be accountable to my teammates and get a victory,” Cassel said.
The Steelers fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1968. Only one team in NFL history — the 1978 San Diego Chargers — made the playoffs after losing their first four games.
Roethlisberger completed 36 of 51 passes for 383 yards with one touchdown, one interception and the lost fumble. He was sacked five more times behind a shaky offensive line, raising his season total to 15. After one Griffen hit in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger had his right thumb wrapped.
Jared Allen had 2.5 sacks for the Vikings while Josh Robinson had 12 tackles and Chad Greenway made 10 stops.
Steelers rookie running Le’Veon Bell rushed for touchdowns in his NFL debut as he ran for 57 yards on 16 carries. He missed the first three games after suffering a sprained foot during the preseason.
Minnesota built a 20-10 halftime lead thanks to a pair of big plays that went for touchdowns.
Jennings took a short pass from Cassel and turned it into a 70-yard score with 8:19 left in the first quarter to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead. Peterson put the Vikings on top 17-7 when he burst up the middle for a 60-yard T with 12:52 to go in the second quarter.
The Vikings’ Blair Walsh opened and closed the first-half scoring with field goals, hitting a 54-yard a little less than three minutes into the game then connecting from 41 yards with 39 seconds remaining in the half.
Bell scored Pittsburgh’s first rushing touchdown of the season on an 8-yard scamper off the right side with 4:09 left in the first quarter, drawing the Steelers within 10-7. Shaun Suisham accounted for Pittsburgh’s other first-half point when he kicked a 26-yard field goal with 3:41 remaining in the second period.
Bell got the Steelers within three points at 20-17 when he scored on a 1-yard plunge 3 1/2 minutes into the second half.
However, the Vikings countered with two touchdowns to take control, Peterson scored on a 7-yard run and Jennings caught a 16-yard strike from Cassel, to make it 34-17 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers rallied to get within seven points in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery then Suisham kicked a 28-yard field goal with 3:37 to go.
Notes: Steelers RB Isaac Redman, who began the season as a starter, was inactive but the team said he was a healthy scratch. Redman suffered a concussion in the Week 2 game at Cincinnati and sat out last week’s loss to Chicago. ... The honorary game captains were Randall McDaniel and Ahmad Rashad for Minnesota and Franco Harris and John Stallworth for Pittsburgh. ... Both teams have bye weeks before returning to action Oct. 13 when the Vikings host the Carolina Panthers and the Steelers visit the New York Jets.