The talk coming into the third game of the preseason centered on the Vikings' run defense, which had been gashed in the first two games of the preseason. In two outings, the Vikings had allowed opposing runners to gain 288 yards on 51 carries. The disconcerting part was that many of those yards came against the Vikings front-line defense. However, with a Steelers team headstrong on establishing the run Saturday night, the Vikings run defense stepped up big – creating the Turning Point of the Game.
They set the tone early. On the first rushing attempt of the game, E.J. Henderson drilled Pittsburgh's Willie Parker for a 4-yard loss. That would prove to be the start of a big day for the Vikings run defense.
On the second Steelers drive of the game, the team picked up an early first down and again tried to establish the run and failed. Parker got consecutive carries and gained just three yards. After a short pass left, the Steelers were just inches away from a first down and the team went no-huddle – only to get stuffed for no gain to turn the ball over to the Vikings offense.
The Vikings offense continued to struggle and the Steelers were desperate to try to string together a long drive. But the Minnesota's run defense wasn't about to budge. On two rushing attempts, Parker was stopped for no gain both times and the Steelers were again forced to punt.
With the story the same on the Steelers defense, which was shutting down the Vikings' running game, a fourth drive of the first quarter came Pittsburgh's way. This time the defense would turn to offense. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall came into the game and, on his second rushing attempt, was stripped by Kevin Williams and rookie safety Tyrell Johnson recovered. That would give the Vikings the ball on the Steelers 47-yard line and lead to a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Adrian Peterson. It would prove to be the only touchdown the first-team offense would score.
Entering the game, few people with the Vikings would acknowledge that the first-team defense was struggling to stop the run. In fact, during interviews earlier in the week, some Vikings would interrupt questions about their struggles to emphatically say there were no problems. Saturday night they proved that, allowing the Steelers' first-team offense only 26 yards on 14 carries – dominating, as Vikings fans have come accustomed to.
Turning Point: Run Defense
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