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Old 10-26-2009, 03:47 AM   #1
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Default Steelers Report Card: Game 7 vs. Vikings

Steelers Report Card: Game 7 vs. Vikings
Gerry Dulac grades the defense-dominated 27-17 victory vs. the Vikings
Monday, October 26, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


It wasn't one of Ben Roethlisberger's better days. After averaging 314 yards per game, he passed for only 175 -- his fewest in a full game since he had 131 in Week 3 last season against Philadelphia. But, he did the most important thing -- not turn the ball over. And he led the no-huddle offense on the team's only touchdown drive that ended with his 40-yard scoring throw to Mike Wallace.


Rashard Mendenhall had runs of 14, 16 and 17 -- all on first down --- and averaged 6.9 yards per carry against a Vikings defense that has ranked No. 1 against the run each of the past three seasons. But he fumbled after a 5-yard gain from the Vikings' 9 at the start of the fourth quarter, depriving the Steelers of a chance to build a 10-point lead. He never touched the ball after that.


The Vikings did a wonderful job to take away Hines Ward, the NFL's leading receiver who had only one catch for 3 yards. And they held Santono Holmes to just two catches, though one was a 45-yard catch-and-run in which Holmes made six players miss. That, though, allowed third receiver Mike Wallace to sneak free for a couple big back-to-back plays, including a 40-yard touchdown catch.


There are not enough superlatives to describe the play of LT Max Starks, who was outstanding shutting down DE Jared Allen, the NFC sack leader. Allen had one of three passes batted down -- DT Kevin Williams had the other two -- but he never pressured Roethlisberger. That the Steelers averaged 5.3 yards rushing against a stout defensive line is testament to the job done by the interior of the line.


Holding Adrian Peterson, the NFL rushing leader, to 69 yards on 18 carries is more than acceptable, though he did score a touchdown. Brett Keisel had one of the four sacks on Brett Favre, stripping the ball that LaMarr Woodley returned 77 yards for a touchdown. But NT Casey Hampton was penalized three times for being offside, once on a goal-line stand at the Steelers' 1.


As usual, the linebackers made all the big plays that mattered. Woodley and Keyaron Fox, playing for injured Lawrence Timmons, made the two biggest with scoring returns. James Harrison had two sacks, pushing his total to eight. But, from start to finish, nobody made plays all over the field more than James Farrior, who had a season-high 15 tackles (nine solo), a sack and a pass defensed.


Favre passed for 242 of his 334 yards in the second half and seemed to target CB William Gay. WR Sidney Rice had only two catches for 13 yards in the first half, but had nine for 123 yards in the second. And that doesn't count a 10-yard touchdown catch that was negated by a tripping penalty and a 35-yarder that was wiped out by a holding penalty.


For the second time in as many games, they allowed a kick return for touchdown, this time an 88-yarder to Percy Harvin that cut the lead to 20-17. Give Fox and Patrick Bailey credit for a couple tackles on early returns, but only one player touched Harvin on his runback -- kicker Jeff Reed, who failed to make any kind of play. Reed kicked field goals from 39 and 27 yards and has made five in a row.


The defense gave up a season-high 386 yards, but made big plays, including the two fourth-quarter scoring returns to win the game. The defense had trouble getting its signals from the sideline and getting set in the second half, something Favre exploited. The offense was never able to make big plays in the passing game because of the Vikings' two-deep coverage, forcing them to throw underneath.

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09299...#ixzz0V1eQqgJr
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