With its offense having an off day, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned to their forgotten strength to come up with a victory Sunday.
Pittsburgh held Minnesota to just three points in three trips inside its 20 in the second half and ended two of those possessions with touchdowns of its own on a fumble return by LaMarr Woodley and an interception return by Keyaron Fox, defeating the Vikings, 27-17, here at Heinz Field.
The victory, which moves the Steelers to 5-2, also allowed them to keep pace with Cincinnati (5-2), a winner over Chicago Sunday, in the AFC North standings.
Those two defensive touchdowns came at critical times for the Steelers, who looked to be close to blowing another fourth quarter lead.
The Steelers appeared to be heading into the end zone for a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter when Rashard Mendenhall lost a fumble at the Minnesota four-yard line.
Three plays later, Favre was sacked by Brett Keisel, who stripped the ball free. Woodley scooped the ball up at the Pittsburgh 23, picked up a bevy of blockers and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown and a 20-10 Steelers' lead.
But Minnesota's Percy Harvin returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown – the second kickoff return allowed by the Steelers in their past two games – to trim the lead to 20-17 with 6:09 remaining in the game.
The Steelers picked up one first down but were forced to punt and Minnesota took control once again from its own 26.
Favre again moved the Vikings quickly down the field, taking them to the Pittsburgh 19 with 1:15 remaining in the game. But his screen pass glanced off the hands of running back Chester Taylor and into the waiting arms of Fox, who caught it at the 18 and scooted up the sidelines for Pittsburgh's second defensive touchdown.
Minnesota was obviously concerned with Pittsburgh's passing attack, which has been averaging nearly 300 yards per game, and kept both safeties deep.
Favre completed 34-of-51 passes for 334 yards, but did not throw a touchdown pass and was sacked four times.
All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, was limited to 69 yards rushing and one touchdown.
A large chunk of Minnesota's yardage came in the fourth quarter when the Vikings held the ball for 11:20 en route to a 36:58-23:02 advantage in time of possession and outgained the Steelers, 386-259.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison had two sacks, giving him eight this season.