Vikings vs Steelers score: Minnesota pushes back furious Pittsburgh rally behind Dalvin Cook’s monster game
The Vikings nearly delivered a knockout before having to fend off a furious attempt to return the visiting Steelers on Thursday night. Down 29-0, the Steelers scored 28 of the game’s next 35 points and were fortunate enough to put themselves in a position to tie the game in the final play of the game. With three seconds to go and 12 yards of paydirt, Ben Roethlisberger found Pat Freiermuth in the middle of the end zone. But safeties Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods managed to free the ball from Freiermuth’s grip, saving the Vikings 36-28 victory.
Dalvin Cook was the spearhead of the Vikings. Cook, who played with a dislocated left shoulder, ran for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Pittsburgh’s return was led by Roethlisberger, who scored 28 of 40 for 308 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Both teams missed baskets after moving the ball in their first shots. But the Vikings cashed in their next four records, including touchdowns from Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson’s 14-yard touchdown opened the scoring. Cook’s 29-yard touchdown rush took the Vikings’ lead to 16-0 with less than 10 minutes left in the first half. Cook gave Minnesota a 23-0 halftime lead on their 7-yard touchdown run with 2:20 left before halftime.
Cook slashed the Steelers for 153 yards on just 14 carries in the game’s first 30 minutes. The two-time Pro Bowl running back accounted for more than half of Minnesota’s 300 total yards in the first half. The Minnesota defense baffled a Pittsburgh offense that only gained 66 yards in 26 games in the first half. The Vikings defense recorded four Roethlisberger sacks in the first half while keeping Najee Harris to just 17 yards on seven carries.
The score was 29-0 before the Steelers scored their first points of the game on a Harris 3-yard touchdown on Roethlisberger with 2:11 left in the third quarter. Harris found the end zone less than three minutes later on a one-yard run that was set up by the interception of Kirk Cousins ââby Ahkello Witherspoon. After a quick three-and-out by the Vikings’ offense, the Steelers scored their third unanswered touchdown when James Washington fought off a 30-yard shot from Roethlisberger. It remained a two-point game, however, when the Steelers offense missed its two-point try.
Minnesota responded with a 62-yard touchdown from KJ Osborn that extended the Vikings’ lead to 16 points. Cousins, who received stellar protection on the game, gave a perfect pass to Osborn, who passed Cam Sutton for the ball before rushing into the end zone.
Pittsburgh refused to walk away, however, as Witherspoon’s second pick on Minnesota’s ensuing possession set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Freiermuth. It became a one-point game when Roethlisberger joined Diontae Johnson on the two-point try. The Steelers defense then forced a punt before Pittsburgh slipped from their four to the Vikings’ 12-yard line. The Vikings made sure the Steelers didn’t get any closer when Harrison and Woods combined to break Roethlisberger’s pass in the final play of the game.
Here’s a look at what happened in the Twin Cities.
Why the Vikings won
The Vikings did just enough in the opening 39 minutes of the game to secure the victory. Minnesota jumped all over Pittsburgh in the first half, as the Vikings’ offense had 12 plays gained at least 10 yards. Cook received gaping holes in his offensive line, while Jefferson’s peerless run was crucial to Minnesota’s first-half success.
Throughout the first half, the Vikings’ constant pre-engagement movement in defense often confused the young Pittsburgh offensive line. This confusion led to several shots on Roethlisberger, who suffered a nasty blind sack from Harrison in the first half. The Minnesota defense limited Pittsburgh’s offense to just 1 in 7 on the third down in the first 30 minutes of the game.
While the Steelers dominated them in the second half, the Vikings still made enough plays to hang on for the win. Bashaud Breeland’s interception of Roethlisberger in the third quarter allowed Greg Joseph to score the third field goal, making it a 29-point game. Osborn’s touchdown turned out to be the winning score, as former Steeler Jordan Berry’s 53-yard punt put the Steelers on their own 4-yard line to begin their final practice of the game.
Why the Steelers lost
The first half was eerily similar to Pittsburgh’s exploding Week 12 loss to Cincinnati. The second half mimicked the Steelers’ Week 11 road loss to the Chargers, a game that saw Pittsburgh nearly overcome a 27-10 deficit before losing a 41-37 decision. In all three games, the Steelers got in too big a hole too early in the game. The Steelers’ porous defense was once again exposed by the Vikings and Cook, who became the first player this season to run over 200 yards. The Pittsburgh defense, who played most of the game without TJ Watt (who injured his groin in the first half), were unable to sack Cousins, who was unsuccessful. half of his 31 attempted passes.
On both sides of the ball, the Steelers woke up late in the game. Pittsburgh forced two turnovers and two punters in their last five defensive possessions. Offensively, the Steelers gained over 300 total yards in the second half, including 94 rushing yards by Harris. But the Steelers’ struggles in the trenches on both sides of the ball – a running theme this season – were once again the main factor behind Pittsburgh’s latest loss.
Pittsburgh looked to be playing for pride when Harris scored the Steelers’ first touchdown to make it 29-7 with 2:11 left in the third quarter. But Witherspoon’s first interception opened the floodgates for the Steelers, who scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions to give themselves a chance to tie the game in the final practice of the game.
The game of the game has to be the breaking of Smith and Woods’ passes in the final game. The game secured the Vikings’ sixth victory of the season while ending Minnesota’s two-game losing streak.
âWe keep asking ourselves why we keep putting ourselves in this position.â¦ This has been us all year. Live and die on this last journey. We have to understand.â – Cook, to Erin Andrews of Fox Sports, on the Vikings who must hang on for the win after leading by 29 points.
âJust to be blunt, we are handled up front on both sides of the ball and that makes it difficult to do what we want to do. It makes it difficult to maintain balance. It makes it difficult to dictate to our opponents what to do. happens and what happens next. It’s going to be hard for us to sled until we get better at it. We’re not good at it. We were JV again tonight. And I’m talking both sides before … We have to be better than we were. ” – Mike Tomlin on the state of the Steelers’ offensive and defensive lines.
Pittsburgh will face Tennessee (8-4) in their penultimate home game of the 2021 season. After their Week 13 recess, the Titans will host the Jaguars on Sunday. The Vikings will travel to Chicago to face the Bears in what is the penultimate road game for Minnesota. Chicago (4-8) will face the Packers at Green Bay on Sunday night.