We knew this was going to be a tough game. After all, the Vikings were without their lone Pro Bowl player in the secondary, Antoine Winfield, while the Steelers got their stout safety, Troy Polamalu, back from injury.
However, the Vikings played very well on both sides of the ball. They gave up a few big runs to Rashard Mendenhall, but at the same time held quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in check for the majority of the game.
The secondary proved that they can rebound from such a dramatic blow. Cornerback Benny Sapp played excellently, but his lone mistake came from a stupid late hit on Roethlisberger as the star quarterback ran out of bounds.
Karl Paymah again proved that he can't tackle. All three of Mendenhall's 10-plus-yard runs were to Paymah's (twice) and Sapp's (once) sides. That was one area where Winfield was missed the most.
The secondary held Roethlisberger to 175 yards on 14-for-26 passing through the air with a touchdown. That's outstanding for the secondary, especially considering Big Ben came into the game leading the league in passing yards.
Hines Ward, who many thought would have a huge game, was held to just one catch for three yards. Again, fantastic job by the secondary.
Adrian Peterson was kept at bay for most of the game. He managed only 69 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown but caught four balls for another 60 yards.
Questionable play calling held Peterson back. Those runs to the outside won't work well against a team like the Steelers, who have extremely fast linebackers.
I think running through the middle would have worked better. Two of Peterson's best runs were up the middle, one of which he cut outside anyway.
How about that Sidney Rice guy, huh? The kid has matured into a fantastic receiver. He ended the day with 11 catches for 136 yards. The guy is simply amazing. We couldn't have asked for more.
Brett Favre was solid after the first quarter. His two mistakes were the result of great defensive coverage and a dropped pass by Chester Taylor. He threw the ball 51 times and completed 34 of them for 334 yards.
That dropped pass by Taylor finally decided the game. Granted, the ball was thrown higher than it should have been, but it was still very catchable.
Overall, this was a great game between two great teams.
The only thing that kept it from being fantastic was the horrendous officiating.
A mysterious tripping penalty erased what would have been the go-ahead touchdown to Rice late in the fourth quarter. Not even the announcers could describe where the call came from.
On the same drive, Favre ended up fumbling the ball and having it returned by the Steelers for a touchdown.
Just minutes before, a holding penalty erased a 34-yard completion to Rice. Replays showed that Bryant McKinnie merely pushed James Harrison to the ground (or at Favre, depending on your take).
Does anyone remember that defensive delay of game call on the Vikings? I didn't see any defenders move out of the ordinary, but on a 3rd-and-4, I guess the officials had already decided who was going to win
Don't get me wrong, the Vikings got away with a few calls too, but the degree of the three calls against the Vikings were of much greater significance.
I'll be excited to see the head of officiating defend the tripping call later this week.
Who knows? Had those penalties not been called, the Steelers could have won anyway. We'll never know though.
The only thing for certain is that the Steelers beat the Vikings by three, and the officials beat the Vikings by at least seven. It's never fun seeing your team lose, but when they lose a game partly due to terrible officiating, it's that much worse.
The Steelers took advantage of a fumble and an interception and made the Vikings pay dearly. They won the game, and I give credit where it's due.
All I want for Christmas is some better officiating, but unfortunately I'll have to wait at least another two months to get that wish, if ever.