Led by back-up quarterback Matt Cassel, in for the injured Christian Ponder, the Minnesota Vikings recorded their first win of the 2013 season overcoming the Pittsburgh Steelers 34 - 27 in a lively Wembley encounter.
Throwing two touchdowns, both to Greg Jennings, Cassel and the Vikings kept their noses in front all game, despite Ben Roethlisberger's best efforts, ending their unwanted streak of three consecutive blown leads on their way to an 0-3 record.
Winning the coin-toss, Pittsburgh deferred possession and after a short return, Cassel started brightly as the Vikings’ jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.
Marshalling the Minnesota offence, on his way to finishing 16 of 25 for 248 yards, and aided by a facemask penalty against Mike Tomlin’s troops, Cassel led the Vikings to their first points and, after a nine play drive, kicker Blair Walsh split the uprights from 54 yards to cap a nine-play drive with less than three minutes played.
Following the resulting kick-off and struggling to find any rhythm on their first possession of the evening, the Steelers’ chose to punt. Marcus Sherels, in as the Vikings return man, signalled for a fair catch, despite taking off on an impressive return anyway, and the Vikings’ regained possession on their 30-yard line.
Soon after, taking Cassel’s pass in his stride, Vikings’ wide receiver Greg Jennings rumbled in for a 70-yard touchdown, outrunning the entire Steelers defence in the process. Converting their point after attempt, the ‘home’ team quickly found themselves with an early ten point lead.
Unflustered by the early deficit, the Steelers’ quarterback Roethlisberger and his offense rallied together and soon had some points of their own. After LeVeon Bell bounced his eight yard run around the outside to score, the Steelers’ first quarter score for eight games, Shaun Shuisham converted the PAT to make it a three point game once more.
The difference didn’t last long however as Adrian Peterson, last seasons’ League MVP, ripped off a 60 yard touchdown run after a subdued opening quarter before Pittsburgh had to settle for a 26-yard field goal with just over three minutes left as a lively first half drew to a close.
Shortly after the restart, the hard-running LeVeon Bell - on his belated NFL debut - bundled his way in from a yard out for his second score of the day before Suisham added the extra point. Once again however, the three point margin didn’t last long as Peterson ran in untouched for his second score of the day on the Viking’s following possession, giving his side a 27-17 lead in the process.
Following a diving interception of an errant Roethlisberger pass, the Vikings quickly extended their lead again as Cassel threw his second touchdown pass of the day, a 16-yard dart to Jennings, increasing the score to 34-17 after a two-play series.
Unperturbed, the Steelers added to their 17 point haul on their next possession as Jericho Cotchery hauled in a 15 yard pass to bring the Steelers to within ten points with just under 13 minutes left on the clock.
As the fourth quarter wound down neither team were able to maintain any sort of offensive momentum although the Steelers were handed one final opportunity with under two minutes to play.
Beginning on their own 22 yard line, Roethlisberger found Cotchery in Vikings territory who advanced to the Minnesota 42 yard line before being brought down.
Spiking the ball, the Steelers quarterback kept the chains moving with quick completions to Heath Miller and Antonio Brown as they searched for the touchdown that would tie the game.
However, following increased pressure from the Vikings defence after throwing an incomplete pass through the endzone, the Steelers quarterback fumbled the ball while being sacked by Everson Griffen and, in that moment, handed the Vikings their first win of the 2013 season.
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