Tarvaris Jackson made a strong bid to become the permanent No. 2 quarterback, and his effort may have been helped by Mike McMahon's struggles for the second consecutive game. Plus, get more than 40 game notes and statistics that help tell the complete story of Saturday's 17-10 win over the Steelers.
It may be too early to call the battle for the No. 2 quarterback over just yet, but the talk around the water cooler Monday may well be about the coming-out party for Tarvaris Jackson
. After looking solid in his pro debut vs. Oakland – completing seven of 13 passes for 60 yards and rushing three times for 36 yards, coach Brad Childress said he intended to let Jackson come in second at quarterback to get a series with the first-unit offense as well as with the second.
It would be hard for Childress to find something he didn't like about Jackson's performance. After coming in for Brad Johnson
, who had completed nine of 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, Jackson outdid those numbers. He also completed nine of 11 passes, and his went for 80 yards and a touchdown.
In his two full drives of the game, Jackson's first drive went 11 plays, as he converted a third down with a six-yard pass to Marcus Robinson
and a fourth-and-inches with a 6-yard pass to Travis Taylor
. While the drive eventually stalled on the Steelers 36-yard line, it was an impressive series in which he showed a lot of poise under the hail of Steelers blitzes. His second drive was even better, as he drove the team 56 yards on eight plays and completed all five passes he threw to give the Vikings a 17-7 lead in what turned out to be the game's final touchdown.
Jackson's case for being the No. 2 quarterback was bolstered by Mike McMahon
's struggles when he came in the game. He completed just one of seven passes and had an interception. While no decision has been announced as to the pecking order for the quarterbacks next Friday against the Ravens, Jackson has done nothing to drop himself out of the No. 2 spot and by far has been the most impressive of the three backup quarterbacks on the roster.
Saturday's win may not have been Jackson's coming-out party, but it sure looked the part and he'll likely be the talk of the sports media circuit over the coming days – deservedly so.
For the second straight game, the Vikings defense was not penalized once during the game. Every Vikings penalty of the 120 minutes of preseason play has been on the offense or the special teams. Both teams committed just five penalties in the game Saturday night.
Wendell Mathis made a good showing of himself Saturday, tying for the team lead in rushing yards with 36 on eight carries and returning three kickoffs for a 27.7-yard average. He may be cautioned by the coaching staff to perhaps not bring out another kick like he did in the first quarter, when he took a kickoff seven yards deep in the end zone and brought it out.
Thanks to a couple of big plays during the final four minutes, the Steelers ended up winning the battle for total yardage – 338 yards to the Vikings' 294. The Vikings played more of a Steelers style, rushing 35 times for 121 yards while throwing 29 passes for 173 yards. The Steelers ran just 21 times for 111 yards and threw the ball 42 times for 227 yards.
Both teams had identical third-down conversion rates – each making good on seven of 15 third-down attempts.
The Vikings finished the game with a big time-of-possession advantage, holding the ball for 33:48, as opposed to 26:12 for the Steelers.
Mike McMahon's homecoming to Pennsylvania was nothing short of awful. After completing his only pass – a 42-yard strike to Jason Carter, McMahon was intercepted on the next play from the Vikings 33-yard line and the ball was returned into Vikings territory and led to the Steelers' only points of the second half. In two games, McMahon has completed just two of 11 passes for 51 yards with no TDs and one interception.
McMahon's outing was so bad, the Vikings put in J.T. O'Sullivan late in the game. Prior to the game, Childress had indicated that he planned to sit O'Sullivan as a healthy scratch player, but after McMahon threw his interception, Childress changed his mind and brought in O'Sullivan. In the two series he ran, however, he didn't throw a pass.
Carter had a big day for the Vikings, returning all three of the Vikings' punts and leading the team with 48 receiving yards on two catches and one of the team's touchdowns. Maybe Cris isn't the only Carter that you can say "all he does is score touchdowns." On a down note, however, Carter gave the Vikings a scare late in the game when he muffed a punt with seven minutes remaining, but he fell on it and no damage was done.
Chris Kluwe's day wasn't accurately reflected in his final numbers. On six punts, he averaged 44.8 yards a kick, which was extraordinary considering that one of his punts, designed to pin the Steelers deep in their own end of the field, went just 14 yards. He averaged 51 yards a kick on his other five punts.
The Steelers were forced to play a hurry-up offense on their final two possessions because the team burned its final two timeouts of the game when the Vikings had the ball with 4:30 to play – a little earlier than most teams would use to stop the clock in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings' special teams could have caused a big headache for the team when they were penalized for having 12 men on the field during a Steelers punt. That kept the drive alive and gave Pittsburgh a chance to drive for the tying touchdown. The Vikings defense stepped up and prevented that from happening, but there likely will be some jawing going on at film study on that play.
Heath Farwell stood out on defense again, registering four tackles and a sack. Ronyell Whitaker led the team with five tackles, a sack and forced fumble.
Thirty different Steelers players had at least one solo or assisted tackle in the game.
Chester Taylor hasn't taken the role of being the top running back by the horns just yet. In two games, he has had 19 carries for 54 yards – an average of less than 3 yards a carry. He had 10 carries for 36 yards Saturday.
Ciatrick Fason had nine carries for 31 yards, giving him a two-game total of 16 carries for 46 yards – also less than 3 yards a carry. Fason moved into the No. 2 role last week ahead of Mewelde Moore, who didn't make the trip to Pittsburgh with the team due to a knee injury.
In the first drive of the fourth quarter, the Vikings went three-and-out – the first time they did that since the opening drive of the game.
Will Hunter had one of the unsung plays of the game. With the Vikings ahead 17-7 in the third quarter, quarterback Omar Jacobs threw a perfect sideline pass to wide receiver Lee Mays that looked to be a touchdown, but Hunter ripped the ball away before Mays could get possession and the pass fell incomplete. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal to cut the Vikings lead to 17-10.
Spencer Johnson was extremely disruptive in the Steelers backfield, pressuring their backup quarterbacks, Jacobs and Shane Boyd.
Of the 18 completions thrown by Johnson and Jackson, they were to 10 different receivers.
The Vikings' kick coverage team did an excellent job Saturday. In four Vikings kickoffs during the game, the Steelers started on the 25-yard line three times and the 16-yard line on the other.
In the first drive of the second half that produced the Vikings' only points of the half, Jackson completed all five passes he threw for 58 yards and a touchdown.
In the first half, the Steelers had seven offensive plays that covered 10 yards or more. The Vikings had just two. In the first drive of the second half, Jackson had three plays that gained more than 10 yards.
The Vikings dominated time of possession in the first half, holding onto the ball for 18:55, as opposed to just 11:05 for the Steelers.
The Steelers converted four of five third-down attempts in the first half, but just three of 10 in the second half.
Pittsburgh's Nate Washington made an impression in the first half, rushing one time in the opening drive for 20 yards and catching three passes for 53 yards.
The Vikings had two turnovers in the red zone in the first half – an interception by Darren Sharper on the 8-yard line and a fumble recovery by Darrion Scott on the 20-yard line on a Charlie Batch fumble. Last year, the Steelers were the most efficient team in the NFL in red zone scoring, but scored on just one of three chances Saturday.
The Vikings ran the ball 18 times in the first half, as opposed to just eight rushes for the Steelers.
Both coaches lost replay challenges in the first half, but some believe that Childress' challenge was simply to stop the tempo of the Steelers' first drive as the Vikings were caught on their heels by Pittsburgh coming out with a Colts-style no-huddle offense.
The Steelers had first round draft pick Santonio Holmes returning kickoffs.
The Vikings completely dominated the time of possession in the first quarter, holding the ball for a whopping 11:19 of the game's first 15 minutes.
Ben Roethlisberger was a question to start after injuring the tendons in his thumb in practice, but he played one series – completing three of four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
Aside from Roethlisberger's cameo appearance, running back Willie Parker carried the ball just one time and All-Pro wide receiver Hines Ward didn't play at all.
The Vikings kept all of their offensive and defensive starters with the exception of Brad Johnson in the game until midway through the second quarter. Most of the Steelers first-team players were done by the end of the first quarter.
Johnson completed his first eight pass attempts before throwing an incompletion.
Chester Taylor had a 31-yard run cut short by a holding call on Troy Williamson or his numbers would have been significantly higher.
The Vikings brought several blitzes early in the game, which was a far cry from the preseason opener vs. Oakland when they didn't blitz any of the Raiders quarterbacks.
Johnson's touchdown pass was far from a thing of beauty. His arm was hit as he threw, but fortunately for the Vikings, Jermaine Wiggins was locked in single coverage with no other Steelers defenders in the area.
The Steelers opened the game with a no-huddle offense that had the Vikings reeling, including a 20-yard run and a 16-yard touchdown pass.
Willie Offord injured his right wrist early in the first quarter and did not return to the game.
The fashion police may have been out in force as the Vikings donned the purple road pants – harkening back to the 1960s when the team used to wear purple pants and, in an unfortunate mix-up by the equipment team, had the Vikings play a game wearing purple jerseys and purple pants. Shortly thereafter, the purple pants were shelved.
Saturday's game was the first game for the Steelers in front of their home fans since Week 17 of the 2005 regular season – they played all four of their games on the way to the Super Bowl title on the road.