NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 14 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 36, Pittsburgh Steelers 28

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries the ball for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In typical Thursday night fashion, the Minnesota Vikings‘ clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers found ways to make wild left turns whenever the result felt in hand. 


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The Vikings, in spite of leading wire to wire, seemed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, defeating the Steelers 36-28 thanks to a couple of second-half turnovers.

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Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins deserves – and will receive – little credit for the Vikings’ performance against the Steelers. The Vikings quarterback completed less than half of his passes, fell short of 200 yards, and his inability to deliver key passes on third down allowed Pittsburgh to mount its comeback attempt.

Name Dropbacks Big-Time Throws Turnover-Worthy Plays Yards Per Attempt Adjusted Completion %
Kirk Cousins 35 3 0 6.79 53%
Running Back

Dalvin Cook was a man possessed against a porous Steelers front seven, recording 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns before halftime. Minnesota seemed to find a good deal of success running into Pittsburgh's light boxes, as the Steelers were more concerned with eliminating Justin Jefferson.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Cousins couldn’t find  Jefferson nearly as often as he’d hoped, and his best play of the night came when he wasn’t targeted. The game's knockout punch came on a touchdown pass to KJ Osborn, who defeated one-on-one coverage thanks to the threat Jefferson poses when running crossing routes.

Offensive Line

Oli Udoh, Ezra Cleveland, and Mason Cole – Minnesota’s interior linemen – combined to allow eight pressures and three hits on Cousins. Udoh and Cleveland “lost” a combined five pass-rush snaps. However, Cousins was able to get the ball out quickly enough to not surrender any sacks.

Name Position Pass-Blocking Snaps Pressures Allowed Pass-Blocking Efficiency
Oli Udoh G 35 6 91.4
Ezra Cleveland G 35 2 97.1
Mason Cole C 35 4 94.3
Garrett Bradbury C 35 1 98.6
Blake Brandel T 2 0 100
Brian O'Neill T 35 1 98.6
Defensive Line

Michael Pierce wrecked the game between Pittsburgh’s guards, finishing Thursday night with three hurries and a sack while forcing Roethlisberger to throw off of unideal platforms throughout the game.

Linebackers

Joe Schobert and Devin Bush missed tackle and didn't fit their gaps well early in the game. Ultimately, they combined for just three run stops from 30 chances. Running backs and tight ends were not often targeted, and the pair allowed just 19 yards on four targets in coverage.

Secondary

Due to how Minnesota attempted to pressure Roethlisberger throughout the game, Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland were often left on an island. The pair was targeted 14 times and allowed 131 yards with a pair of touchdowns in coverage. Their struggles made it more difficult for Minnesota's defense to stress Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh's offensive line.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger was under siege throughout the first half, as he was sacked three times in the second quarter and four times by halftime. Minnesota used its exotic fronts to manufacture pressure, but some long completions in the second half loosened up the coverage and allowed the Steelers to find a brief rhythm.

Name Dropbacks Big-Time Throws Turnover-Worthy Plays Yards Per Attempt Adjusted Completion %
Ben Roethlisberger 51 3 3 7.2 85%
Running Back

Najee Harris came into the game leading the NFL in total touches, and he found more creases tonight than usual this season, as he averaged five yards per carry. When there wasn’t airspace to run into, Harris made defenders miss to create offense on his own.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Chase Claypool’s mental lapses seemed to take him out of Pittsburgh's game plan, leaving Diontae Johnson and James Washington to pick up the slack in his stead. In typical Steelers fashion, the passing offense struggled to find its receivers in windows, leaving them to win one-on-ones on the perimeter.

Offensive Line

Pittsburgh’s offensive line allowed three sacks and eleven total pressures by the night’s end. The sacks, allowed by Kendrick Green and Trai Turner, were equal parts poor blocking and Minnesota’s causing protection miscues with certain looks.

Name Position Pass-Blocking Snaps Pressures Allowed Pass-Blocking Efficiency
Trai Turner G 51 4 94.1
Rashaad Coward G 2 0 100
Chukwuma Okorafor T 51 1 99
John Leglue G 49 5 94.9
Kendrick Green C 51 3 96.1
Dan Moore Jr. T 51 2 98
Defensive Line

T.J. Watt tweaked his groin early and was unable to join his running mate Cameron Heyward in getting after the quarterback, logging just one pressure from his 12 opportunities. Heyward generated two hits on Cousins, and all three of his pressures were deemed pass rush “wins.”

Linebackers

Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr remain an excellent LB tandem, combining for three run stops from 23 tries, a sack and a quarterback hit in addition to allowing 47 yards from five targets.

Secondary

Ahkello Witherspoon was the canary in the coal mine for Pittsburgh’s defense, ending Thursday with a couple of interceptions. One of Witherspoon's interceptions nearly opened the door for Pittsburgh to come back, as he jumped a slant route that Cousins tried to force into a tight window.

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