Vikings Dump Defending Champs, 17-10

The Vikings started slowly in the home of the defending Super Bowl champions, but they quickly turned it around for a 17-10 win in Pittsburgh. The Vikings featured a solid defense and a ball control offense – exactly what they were advertising in the Brad Childress era.

At times during the Mike Tice era, the Vikings would go on the road to an outdoor stadium and self-destruct, giving up big plays early and struggling to avoid a blowout. While it was only preseason, the Vikings' initial road test in the Brad Childress era seemed to reflect a more leveled approach Saturday evening, even if it was at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, where the defending Super Bowl champions were celebrating their title with their fans for the first time.

Minnesota's defense looked shaky to start the game on a wet field but settled in and eventually Minnesota won the battle of the first teams and finally the game, 17-10. The Vikings did it with a ball-control West Coast offense spurred by two grade-A efforts from their first two quarterbacks and a defense that kept applying pressure.

Minnesota's top two quarterbacks – Brad Johnson and Tarvaris Jackson – had nearly identical statistics when it was over, both going 9-for-11 with a touchdown. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger played only one series, but the Steelers confused the Vikings on their way to a 7-0 lead before pulling Roethlisberger. Besides that move, the Vikings' starters left the field with a 10-7 advantage, and Jackson increased that lead while Minnesota's substitutes generally outplayed their Pittsburgh counterparts.

The Vikings' running game also showed marginal improvement after a questionable performance in the opener. This time, starter Chester Taylor took 10 carries for 36 yards.

It added up to a satisfying seven-point win over the defending champs.

The Vikings offense stalled against the Steelers' 3-4 defense to open the game, going backwards on two of the three plays before punting away. Roethlisberger opened the game and went after cornerback Fred Smoot on his first series. The Steelers opened with trickery, using a 20-yard reverse to Dan Kreider to start their offense. Two of Roethlisberger's next three passes went complete for 7 yards each before hitting Cedrick Wilson on a slant for a 16-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

On its second series, the Vikings offense responded. Johnson opened with a 7-yard pass to Troy Williamson and, despite a miserably failed reverse to Travis Taylor that netted minus-9 yards, they profited with a first down when Ike Taylor hit Travis Taylor out of bounds for a penalty-induced first down. The running game moved the chains again with carries by Chester Taylor, Tony Richardson and Taylor again to midfield. But the explosive play came on a 34-yard post route to Travis Taylor. After a false start on Marcus Johnson, a pass to Chester Taylor in the right flat gained 9 and, following a 2-yard run by Ciatrick Fason, Johnson went for a quick hitter to Wiggins. Johnson's arm was hit on the release, but a fortuitous wobbling duck landed in Jermaine Wiggins' hands and he tracked into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

With Charlie Batch in the game on Pittsburgh's second series, the Steelers offense sputtered as he threw two incompletions under pressure.

The Vikings took possession and drove again on Pittsburgh's first-team defense. Johnson started with a 5-yard scramble. Following a first-down pass to Williamson, Chester Taylor broke free for a 19-yard run that came back some on downfield holding by Williamson. Undeterred, Johnson kept the offense moving with a 9-yard pass to Wiggins. From the Pittsburgh 42-yard line, Chester Taylor picked up the first down on a rush, then caught a 5-yard pass before Johnson picked up another first down with an 8-yard scramble. The drive stalled there, but Ryan Longwell put points on the board with a 38-yard field goal for a 10-7 Vikings lead.

The Steelers' second-team offense drove past midfield with passes of 14 yards to Verron Haynes and 13 and 20 yards to Nate Washington against Minnesota's first-team defense, but Darren Sharper ended the advancement with an interception midway through the second quarter.

QB Jackson entered with the rest of the first-team offense, and he moved the ball against the Steelers with a typically methodical West Coast approach. He connected with Marcus Robinson for 6 yards, Wiggins for 7 and Travis Taylor for 6, but after getting across midfield the drive stalled.

With the Vikings' second-team defense in the game, Batch finally found some success, hitting Washington in the middle of the field for 20 yards and Haynes for 9 yards on a screen that moved them across midfield. With completions to Quincy Morgan, Santonio Holmes and Haynes, Batch moved inside the red zone. But, like their last drive, the Steelers turned the ball over in closer quarters. This time, cornerback Ronyell Whitaker came on a blitz off the left side and hit Batch to jar the ball loose. When Darrion Scott recovered, it effectively ended a decent first half for the Vikings.

With Pittsburgh's rookie quarterback, Omar Jacobs, in the game to start the second half, the frenzy created by the Vikings defense continued, as Scott ended the opening drive of the half with a third-down sack of Jacobs.

While Jacobs looked confused, Jackson looked more comfortable in his role with the Vikings, taking possession at his own 44 and driving his offense for a touchdown. He opened with an 11-yard pass to Richard Owens and picked up another first down with an 11-yard pass to fullback Steven Jackson. After taking a sack, Tarvaris Jackson found Ryan Hoag in the middle for a deep slant and a 26-yard pickup. Another pass to Owens yielded another first down before Jackson found Jason Carter in the flat for a reception that he turned into a 6-yard touchdown with a dive for the pylon, giving Minnesota a 17-7 lead with 9:20 left in the third quarter.

The Vikings defense held again, giving Mike McMahon a turn at the helm of the offense. He looked shaky to start, eventually hitting Carter on a 42-yard pass, but then threw an interception right into the hands of Rian Wallace.

Wallace's 27-yard interception return set Pittsburgh up on the Minnesota 47-yard line, and Jacobs was able to do enough to get the Steelers in field goal position. After three consecutive runs picked up a combined 17 yards, Jacobs hit tight end Jon Dekker for 19 yards to the 11-yard line. Three plays later, Jeff Reed pulled Pittsburgh within a touchdown with a 32-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.

McMahon couldn't negotiate a first down on the ensuing series, and Pittsburgh's Shane Boyd took control of his offense. While his running game picked up one first down and he got a break when the Vikings had 12 men on the field during a punt, he still wasn't able to move the Steelers into scoring position.

While McMahon floundered for another series before giving way to J.T. O'Sullivan to close out the game, the Vikings defense continued to come up big on third downs. They stayed with the pass-rushing pressure, with ends Jayme Mitchell and Eric Taylor getting a final sack on the evening midway through the fourth quarter before the Minnesota running game and defense combined to close out the game without any damage in a 17-10 win.

While Minnesota's offense and defense each started slowly on their respective first series, they quickly turned it around and performed admirably in Childress' first win in purple – one made sweeter by taking down the defending Super Bowl champions in their own territory.

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