Pittsburgh Steelers Film Study: Forget Stats, Defense Was Great Against Vikings

Nick DeWittAnalyst INovember 4, 2009

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 25: James Harrison #92 and LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate Harrison's sack on Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings at Heinz Field on October 25, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won 27-17. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Numbers can lie. Want an example?

In 2002, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced off with the Houston Texans for the first time.  In that game, the Steelers generated over 400 yards of offense.  They allowed less than 100 on defense.

They also lost 24-6.

So, when Brett Favre passed for 334 yards against the Steelers two Sundays ago, was it a case of numbers that lie or was it a case of numbers that reveal?

The numbers lie.

First of all, look at the rest of Favre's statistical line for the day. He threw 50 times, completing 33 passes. Only three passes went longer than 25 yards. He was also sacked four times, threw a costly interception in the red zone, and lost a fumble near the red zone.

So, Favre averaged 10.1 yards per completion and 6.68 yards per attempt. Those numbers are well within the realm of respectability for a defense. No one likes to allow 300+ passing yards, but in this case, it was exactly what the team needed to do.

Second, if you are a defensive coordinator preparing for the Vikings, who is the one player you absolutely must contain? It's not Favre.

It's Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' stud running back.

Take a look at what Peterson did that day:

18 carries, 69 yards (long of 19)

He also scored. I would say that is the biggest regret that Pittsburgh has about that game.

Peterson averaged 3.8 yards per rush.  If you take out the 19 yard carry, that drops to 2.9 yards per carry.

Those numbers, especially against an elite running back, are excellent.

Simply put, the Steelers plan going into the game was to force Brett Favre, the old gunslinger, to beat them. They weren't going to lose a game because they got battered by Peterson.

They believed that Favre would, as he has done several times throughout his career, eventually make a mistake that would cost the team a game. His fourth-quarter fumble at the Steelers' 23 qualifies as that mistake.

After that, Favre became the victim of a good defensive play when Kenyaron Fox intercepted his pass on a tip and took it 82 yards to ice the game.

There's one drive, however, that truly shows how the Steelers, on that day, were more dominant and feared than any numbers could show.

Inside the Steelers' five yard line, Minnesota had three chances to punch the ball in for a game-changing touchdown.

They only gave Adrian Peterson one chance to do it. After he was stuffed, they asked Favre to beat the Steelers. When he failed on two pass attempts, they sent out Ryan Longwell.

That's when the Vikings lost the game.

Pittsburgh's defense didn't dominate Minnesota on the stat sheets. They dominated them mentally and, save for Peterson's bullying of William Gay, physically.

They did exactly what they set out to do. They forced Brett Favre to make plays to win the game. Then, when it mattered most, they stopped him from making those plays.

Favre threw for 334 yards. That covers a football field more than three times. He failed to record a touchdown pass.

So, if you think just because the numbers show Favre having another 300+ yard day that the Steelers defense didn't play a dominant game, then you need to realize that numbers aren't always honest.