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Old 10-26-2009, 02:41 AM   #1
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Default ERIC KNOPSNYDER| Key play's significance may stretch beyond game

ERIC KNOPSNYDER| Key play's significance may stretch beyond game
The Tribune-Democrat

PITTSBURGH — Keyaron Fox’s 82-yard interception return for a touchdown on Sunday might have been more than just the turning point in the Steelers’ 27-17 victory over the Vikings.

It might end up being the turning point in both teams’ seasons.

Despite their 4-2 record entering the game, the Steelers had stumbled through the first half of the season. They stubbed their figurative toe in Cincinnati and Chicago by frittering away leads late in the game.

The Vikings, meanwhile, entered Heinz Field with a 6-0 mark that included wins over San Francisco and Baltimore that could just as easily have been losses.

It looked like Sunday’s game was about to fall into that category. The Vikings had a second-and-3 play at the Steelers’ 19 – well within Ryan Longwell’s range for a game-tying field goal, if they didn’t score a go-ahead touchdown – when Brett Favre’s pass clanged off the hands of Chester Taylor and into Fox’s waiting arms. Instead of giving up another fourth-quarter lead, the Steelers defense added to it.

“On our defense we always try to go out there and not just get turnovers, but try to put points on the board,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had returned a Favre fumble

77 yards for a score 5½ minutes earlier.

It's hard to imagine the Steelers defense – which was the best in the league during last year's Super Bowl season

– having any confidence issues, but if it it did, Sunday probably solved them.

“We feel like we have a really good defense,” said Brett Keisel, the defensive end who forced the fumble that led to Woodley’s touchdown. “(Sunday) was a great test for us to go against a good offensive line, a great quarterback, a great running back. It was a big test for us, and we answered the call.”

The defense did answer the call, and on more than just the two touchdowns. The Steelers also had a key goal-line stand in the third quarter. The Vikings had a first-and-goal inside the Pittsburgh 1-yard line, but came away with just three points. Adrian Peterson

– who the Steelers held to

69 yards on 18 carries – was stuffed on first down and Favre threw incomplete on the next two plays.

Not bad for a game that was being billed by some as a potential shootout.

“We don’t do shootouts,” safety Ryan Clark said. “It’s been awesome how fast you (the media) forgot that this defense can actually play. It didn't take you long at all either. We have pride. It’s not ego, it’s pride.

“And guys have character. We don’t like coming into a game (when) you say it's going to be a shootout. Because as much as you are saying something good about our offense, you are saying something negative about our defense if we allow it to be a shootout.”

Instead, the Steelers are starting to look like last year’s team, which was able to pull out victories in games it shouldn’t have won. Even coach Mike Tomlin knows that Sunday’s game could have just as easily gone the other way.

“We’re pretty fortunate to win that football game, to say the least,” he said. “When you look at the stat sheet, and you look at some of the things that happened in that game, usually you don’t win those.”

The fact that the Steelers did find a way to do so might be the most encouraging sign of the season.
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