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10-27-2009, 01:57 AM
Fourth-quarter defensive scores save Steelers
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com
http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/loc ... ings-gamer (http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/localsports/10-26-Steelers-Vikings-gamer)


PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers teased the Minnesota Vikings Sunday like a bully who steals someone's hat.

They kept giving the Vikings a chance to take the lead, only to pull it back at the last moment.

Pittsburgh held Minnesota to just three points in three trips inside the 20-yard-line in the second half and ended two of those possessions with touchdowns of its own.

One came on a fumble return by LaMarr Woodley and the other an interception return by Keyaron Fox that capped a 27-17 victory over the Vikings before a record crowd of 65,597 at Heinz Field.

The victory, which moves the Steelers to 5-2, allowed them to keep pace with Cincinnati (5-2), a winner over Chicago, in the AFC North standings.

"When you put 14 points on the board defensively, you can overcome a lot of errors," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Those 14 points came when the Steelers needed them most.

The Steelers appeared to be heading into the end zone for a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter when Rashard Mendenhall lost a fumble at the Minnesota four-yard line.

Minnesota (6-1) drove from there to the Pittsburgh 10, where an apparent touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sidney Rice was nullified by a tripping penalty on the Vikings tight end Jeff Dugan.

Three plays later, Favre was sacked by Brett Keisel, who stripped the ball free. Woodley scooped it up at the Pittsburgh 23, picked up a bevy of blockers and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown and 20-10 Steelers' lead.

Minnesota's Percy Harvin returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown - the second kickoff return for a score allowed by the Steelers in their past two games - to trim the lead to 20-17 with 6:09 to play.

The Steelers picked up one first down but were forced to punt, and Minnesota took control again from its 26.

Favre quickly moved the Vikings down the field, taking them to the Pittsburgh 19 with 1:15 remaining. But his screen pass glanced off the hands of running back Chester Taylor and into the waiting arms of Fox, who caught it at the 18 and scooted down the sidelines for Pittsburgh's second defensive touchdown.

"That's definitely a finish," said Woodley. "As a defense, we always want to go out there and help our offense put points on the board."

In this game, the defense outscored the offense.

Minnesota was concerned with Pittsburgh's passing attack, which was averaging nearly 300 yards per game, and kept both safeties deep.

That helped limit Ben Roethlisberger to a season-low 175 yards and one touchdown, a 40-yarder to rookie Mike Wallace late in the first half. That only made the 14 defensive points more important.

"If it was a scrimmage, we would have won," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. "We outscored their offense, two touchdowns to one."

Favre completed 34 of 51 passes for 334 yards, but did not throw a touchdown pass and was sacked four times.

All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, was limited to 69 yards rushing and one touchdown.

A large chunk of Minnesota's yardage came in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings held the ball for 11:20 en route to a 36:58-23:02 advantage in time of possession and outgained the Steelers, 386-259.

"We didn't have our best game offensively, but the defense picked us up," said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who was limited to just one catch for three yards.

Odds and end zones

Pittsburgh placekicker Jeff Reed made field goals of 39 and 27 yards. ... The Steelers lost linebacker Lawrence Timmons (ankle) and defensive end Travis Kirschke (calf) in the fourth quarter. Neither returned. ... Back judge Richard Reels was injured when he was run over by Dugan during Harvin's fourth quarter kickoff return for a touchdown. ... Minnesota had 11 penalties for 78 yards, and the Steelers three for 15. ... Steelers linebacker James Harrison had two sacks, giving him eight this season.