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Steelers at 0-4 after loss at Wembley

Posted Sep 29, 2013

VIKINGS 34, Steelers 27

Steelers’ record: 0-4
One year ago: 2-2
Series record (including playoffs): Vikings lead, 9-8

STORYLINE
One team employed the best running back in the NFL, while the other planned to debut its most recent second-round pick with the expectation of reviving a running attack that has been the foundation of its success for more than 40 years. The Steelers’ chore at Wembley Stadium would be to find a way to control Adrian Peterson with a defense that walked onto the pitch tied for 22nd in the NFL against the run. And just as significant was going to be the degree to which Le’Veon Bell would energize a running attack that had managed just 155 yards in the season’s first three games, a total serving as a decent explanation for the Steelers’ 0-3 record. “Run the ball, and stop the run” long has been viewed as a formula for victory in the NFL, and this matchup figured to fall right in line.

TURNING POINT
During three successive Vikings possessions that spanned the second and spilled over into the third, Minnesota’s offense scored each time it had the ball. Even though the Steelers scored 10 points themselves over the same span, that total of 17 points turned what had been just a 10-7 deficit into one of 27-17.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT
In 2012, Adrian Peterson rushed for over 2,000 yards less than a calendar year after sustaining a severe knee injury, and through this season’s first three games he was fifth in the NFL with 281 yards on 69 carries. But that total and his 4.3 average per carry was somewhat misleading, because Peterson had gone 78 yards for a touchdown the first time he had been handed the football in 2013. Subtracting that one big play from his statistics, Peterson came into the game vs. the Steelers averaging just under 3 yards a carry. Against the Steelers, Peterson rushed for 140 yards on 23 carries plus two touchdowns.

WHAT WENT RIGHT
* Cordarrelle Patterson brings the opening kickoff out from 9 yards deep, an indication that he’s going to be aggressive all game. Shamarko Thomas and DaMon Cromartie-Smith dump him at the 17-yard line.

* Vikings’ PR Marcus Sherels appeared to return a punt 67 yards down inside the Steelers’ 10-yard line, but he was flagged for signaling for an illegal fair catch. Jason Worilds hustled to make a touchdown-saving tackle had the play stood, but after the penalty the Vikings started at their own 24-yard line.

* It was later in the first quarter until Ben Roethlisberger had a clean pocket from which to operate, but when he got one he took advantage with a 36-yard strike to Emmanuel Sanders down the right sideline that put the ball at the Vikings’ 23-yard line. Sanders got just a half-step on CB Josh Robinson, and Roethlisberger’s throw was perfect.

* The Steelers’ first rushing touchdown on the season was why the Steelers drafted Le’Veon Bell. A jump-cut at the line of scrimmage. Bounced the play to the outside. Took advantage of a seal block by Heath Miller on CB Josh Robinson and flashed the speed to turn the corner and get into the end zone from 8 yards out. Vikings, 10-7, with four minutes left in the first quarter.

* Very nice defensive series by the Steelers following Bell’s touchdown. Brett Keisel dumped Adrian Peterson for no gain. Steve McLendon dumped him for a short gain, and then William Gay broke up a third down pass to force a punt.

* The Steelers got the ball on the opening possession of the second half, and aided by a 48-yard pass interference penalty on CB Josh Robinson who pulled down Antonio Brown’s arms before the ball arrived in the end zone, Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown run of the game the Steelers cut the Vikings lead to 20-17 with 11:28 left in the third quarter.

* The Steelers got a break when the placekicker who never misses missed a field goal with 6:49 left in the fourth quarter. Blair Walsh missed wide left from 44 yards out to give the Steelers their last best chance to cut into their 34-24 deficit.

WHAT WENT WRONG
* It looked like Ike Taylor was going to make an interception in the end zone for the Steelers’ first takeaway of the season, but Cordarrelle Patterson strips it out of his hands. Two plays later, Blair Walsh kicks a 54-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 3-0 lead with 12:08 left in the first quarter. A big play on the drive was a 15-yard facemask penalty on Al Woods that turned a 4-yard run by Adrian Peterson into a 19-yard gain that moved the ball to the Steelers’ 38-yard line.

* Minnesota was taking advantage of soft cornerback coverage on their wide receivers in the early part of the first quarter, and those short throws turned into a big play with just a little more than eight minutes left in the first quarter. Matt Cassel threw a short hitch pass to Greg Jennings on a third-and-4, but he turned it into a 70-yard touchdown as a result of missed tackles by Cortez Allen, William Gay, Allen again, and then Troy Polamalu. The play upped the Vikings lead to 10-0.

* A holding penalty by Mike Adams on Jared Allen turned a potential third-and-1 into a third-and-17. A slip-screen to Antonio Brown then came up 3 yards short of the first down, and the Steelers had to punt. Zoltan Mesko’s kick traveled only 30 yards, and the Vikings took possession on their own 40-yard line with 12:52 left in the second quarter.

* On the Vikings first offensive play following that punt, Adrian Peterson turned a straight handoff into a 60-yard touchdown when Troy Polamalu got caught inside as Peterson broke the line of scrimmage. Lawrence Timmons and then LaMarr Woodley made unsuccessful diving attempts, and then Paterson out-ran Ryan Clark to complete the play that restored the Vikings lead to 17-7.

* Takeaways continue to elude the Steelers. On a third-and-5 just before the two minute warning, LaMarr Woodley stripped Matt Cassel as he was trying to escape the pass rush, but the ball bounced away from both Jarvis Jones and Troy Polamalu only to be picked up by Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson, who then ran for the first down. Two plays earlier, Lawrence Timmons tipped a Cassel pass and Cortez Allen almost had an interception.

* When Ramon Foster sustained a chest injury and was forced out of the game, that required Kelvin Beachum to step in at left guard and removed any chance of a rotation at tackle. Part of the pregame plan was to have Beachum and Adams split time at LT, but that went out the window with Foster’s injury.

* As of the Vikings first possession of the second half, the Steelers defense had allowed scoring drives the last three times it had taken the field. Two of those scores were touchdown runs by Adrian Peterson, and the third was a 37-yard field goal by Blair Walsh. Poor tackling seemed to a rather consistent issue, and the Vikings had a 27-17 lead.

* On the Steelers’ ensuing possession, Ben Roethlisberger again was under heavy pressure from Jared Allen, and as he escaped and tried to find an open receiver, he anticipated Emmanuel Sanders continuing his route but when Sanders stopped to settle into an open spot the pass ended up being inaccurate and Chad Greenway was there for the interception.

* This is when the game started getting away from the Steelers, because after the turnover, LaMarr Woodley was flagged for unnecessary roughness after a short catch by TE Kyle Rudolph, and then WR Greg Jennings turned Cortez Allen around and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass to up the Vikings’ lead to 34-17 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.

*The bad seemed to keep getting worse. After the defense held and forced a short punt that Antonio Brown returned to the Steelers’ 40-yard line, a holding penalty on Kion Wilson brought the ball back to the Pittsburgh 23-yard line.

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