Vikings Fend off Steelers' Furious 4th-Quarter Comeback to Capture Win on TNF

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 10, 2021

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

The Minnesota Vikings continued to live dangerously after nearly blowing a 29-0 third-quarter lead, but they held on for a 36-28 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who returned after suffering a torn labrum and separated shoulder on Nov. 28 against the San Francisco 49ers, finished with 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

The Minnesota defense also sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger five times and intercepted him once.

The Vikings took a 29-0 lead with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter after a 25-yard Greg Joseph field goal, but the Steelers responded with 20 straight points thanks to a pair of Najee Harris touchdowns and James Washington's 30-yard TD catch.

Minnesota struck back quickly, however, when quarterback Kirk Cousins found K.J. Osborn for a 62-yard touchdown. The Vikings then got the ball back after a punt, but Cousins threw an interception to Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon that was returned to the Minnesota 21-yard line.

Two plays later, Roethlisberger found tight end Pat Freiermuth for a 17-yard touchdown. He then hit Diontae Johnson for a two-point conversion try that cut the Viking lead to 36-28.

Minnesota ran some clock in response but faced a 4th-and-8 on its 45-yard line with 2:26 left. A great Jordan Berry punt was downed at the 4-yard line, giving the Steelers 2:16 to go 96 yards.

The Steelers then worked their way down the field, with Chase Claypool catching three passes for 60 yards. Diontae Johnson snagged a 12-yard pass and scampered out of bounds at the Vikings' 12-yard line with three seconds remaining.

Roethlisberger fit a ball in a tiny window to Freiermuth with three defenders around him in the end zone. The ball was there, and Freiermuth had his hands on it, but Harrison Smith slapped it away to end the game.

With that, the 6-7 Vikings ended a two-game losing streak despite playing without wideout Adam Thielen, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Twelve of the Vikings' 13 games have now been decided by eight points or fewer.

The Steelers fell to 6-6-1.


Notable Performances

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook: 27 carries, 205 rushing yards, 2 TD; 1 catch, 17 receiving yards

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins: 14-of-31, 216 passing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: 7 catches, 79 receiving yards, 1 TD

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: 28-of-40, 308 passing yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

Steelers RB Najee Harris: 20 carries, 94 rushing yards, 1 TD; 3 catches, 10 yards, 1 TD

Steelers WR Chase Claypool: 8 catches, 93 receiving yards


Cook, Vikings Defense Give Minnesota Just Enough Breathing Room to Survive

No other NFL team holds a candle to the Vikings when it comes to exciting and dramatic football games, and Minnesota delivered yet again on Thursday.

Of course, it wasn't in the fashion that the Vikings would have wanted after posting a 29-0 lead. They nearly blew it all after some untimely turnovers and pass-coverage issues down the stretch, but Cook, the Vikings defense and one huge play from Osborn got the job done.

For starters, Cook looked fresh and faster than anyone else on the field. Frankly, he could have driven a truck through some of the holes Vikings blockers opened, but credit to him for taking advantage of his opportunities:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

.<a href="https://twitter.com/dalvincook?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dalvincook</a> GOODNESS!!!<br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/W3rIN1TXpC">pic.twitter.com/W3rIN1TXpC</a>

His 29-yard run featured more wide-open room for him to roam after he cut to the outside and waltzed into the end zone:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

Could have walked it in<a href="https://twitter.com/dalvincook?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dalvincook</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/hnzmOh26x2">pic.twitter.com/hnzmOh26x2</a>

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

Not a soul in sight <a href="https://t.co/x8PcnCmBJN">pic.twitter.com/x8PcnCmBJN</a>

Running outside right tackle proved fruitful on Cook's touchdown from seven yards out on 3rd-and-1 for a 22-0 lead:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

LET'S KEEP COOKING!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/dalvincook?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dalvincook</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/P0pP3sQBl6">pic.twitter.com/P0pP3sQBl6</a>

Cook set a franchise record for rushing yards in a first half. He was also on pace to break Vikings legend Adrian Peterson's single-game NFL rushing record of 296 yards.

Vikings Communications @VikingsPR

.<a href="https://twitter.com/dalvincook?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dalvincook</a> sets the 𝗙π—₯π—”π—‘π—–π—›π—œπ—¦π—˜ π—₯π—˜π—–π—’π—₯𝗗 for most rushing yards in the first half with 153.<br><br>153 Dalvin Cook vs. PIT, 12/9/21<br>144 Adrian Peterson at SEA, 11/4/12 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> <a href="https://t.co/6qTD5qYrCO">pic.twitter.com/6qTD5qYrCO</a>

On defense, the Vikings were busy sacking Roethlisberger five times, with Smith notably getting in on the action with this blitz:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

GAMEWRECKER <a href="https://twitter.com/HarriSmith22?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HarriSmith22</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/yoaPJY9n2J">pic.twitter.com/yoaPJY9n2J</a>

Eric Kendricks also got in on the act to kill a late first-half Steelers drive:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

.<a href="https://twitter.com/EricKendricks54?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EricKendricks54</a> sets a new single-season career-high with 5.0 sacks.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a><br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/xq5yDOhpzb">pic.twitter.com/xq5yDOhpzb</a>

Bashaud Breeland also picked off Big Ben in the third quarter with his team up 26-0:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

.<a href="https://twitter.com/Bree2Land6?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Bree2Land6</a> picks off Big Ben!!! <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/JHZUjbCYJh">pic.twitter.com/JHZUjbCYJh</a>

A Joseph field goal put Minnesota up 29-0, but anything that could go wrong for the Vikings did after that did until Osborn came through with a huge touchdown catch for a 35-20 lead:

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ’£<a href="https://twitter.com/KirkCousins8?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KirkCousins8</a> airs it out to <a href="https://twitter.com/KJ_Osborn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KJ_Osborn</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLonFOX</a> <a href="https://t.co/B9llB8aJ3P">pic.twitter.com/B9llB8aJ3P</a>

Osborn gave himself enough space on the catch to haul in the 62-yard pass, which wrested momentum back from the Steelers for a brief moment.

This game got hairy for Minnesota in the end, but the Vikings certainly aren't complaining about a win as they fight for an NFC wild-card berth among a host of other conference foes.


Steelers Nearly Pull Off Comeback for the Ages

Only one NFL team (the 1992 Buffalo Bills) has ever overcome a deficit of 29 points or more.

The Steelers nearly did just that on Thursday but simply ran out of time down the stretch.

Before outscoring the Vikings 28-7 in the final quarter-plus, the Steelers offense looked incompetent to the point of sometimes being unable to attempt passes.

Vikings' offensive players had plenty of room to roam, to the point where it felt like the Steelers were playing short-handed.

However, the Steelers woke up in the third quarter, executing a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Harris three-yard touchdown catch:

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

.<a href="https://twitter.com/_BigBen7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_BigBen7</a> ➑️ <a href="https://twitter.com/ohthatsNajee22?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ohthatsNajee22</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> | πŸ“Ί: NFLN/FOX/PRIME VIDEO <a href="https://t.co/uoz4tGYR7A">pic.twitter.com/uoz4tGYR7A</a>

There wasn't much reason for the Vikings to be concerned then, but Witherspoon registered the first of his two interceptions of Cousins after a ball deflected off the hands of Steelers linebacker Devin Bush and Jefferson before finding its way into the defensive back's possession.

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

Picked by <a href="https://twitter.com/ahkello?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ahkello</a>!<br><br>πŸ“Ί: NFLN/FOX/PRIME VIDEO <a href="https://t.co/0aQvDGsg0c">pic.twitter.com/0aQvDGsg0c</a>

Pittsburgh kept it rolling on offense with a seven-play, 42-yard drive that ended with Harris' second score:

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

Right up the middle!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/ohthatsNajee22?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ohthatsNajee22</a> | πŸ“Ί: NFLN/FOX/PRIME VIDEO <a href="https://t.co/NqRnz0riLu">pic.twitter.com/NqRnz0riLu</a>

The Vikings offense continued its rut with a three-and-out, and Pittsburgh immediately responded with a three-play, 69-yard drive finished off by James Washington's 30-yard touchdown catch:

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

RIGHT ON TARGET!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/_BigBen7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_BigBen7</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/JamesWashington?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JamesWashington</a> | πŸ“Ί: NFLN/FOX/PRIME VIDEO <a href="https://t.co/dx583O6aFr">pic.twitter.com/dx583O6aFr</a>

Minnesota finally got back on the board with the Osborn touchdown, and it appeared the Steelers may have been done for good after they were forced to punt from their own territory.

However, Witherspoon jumped a slant and picked off his second pass of the game:

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

ANOTHER PICK!<br><br>πŸ“Ί: NFLN/FOX/PRIME VIDEO <a href="https://t.co/xk29XaDyf9">pic.twitter.com/xk29XaDyf9</a>


Two plays later, it was Friermuth who caught a 17-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 10:

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

MUUUUUUTH!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProBowlVote?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ProBowlVote</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/_BigBen7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_BigBen7</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/pat_fry5?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@pat_fry5</a> | πŸ“Ί: NFLN/FOX/PRIME VIDEO <a href="https://t.co/HJkC9O7EgV">pic.twitter.com/HJkC9O7EgV</a>

Then it became a one-possession game following the two-point conversion.

The Vikings, in response, ran off more clock than the Steelers would have wanted after Cousins hit Cook on a 17-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. However, Pittsburgh forced a punt on the next set of downs, leading to the game's final drive.

It was a valiant effort for Pittsburgh down the stretch, but the Steelers simply ran out of time.


What's Next?

Pittsburgh will host the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Dec. 19, at 1 p.m. ET.

Minnesota will visit the Chicago Bears on Monday, Dec. 20, at 8:15 p.m.