Thursday Night Football: Vikings withstand furious Steelers rally in 36-28 victory

Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings
Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings just can’t do anything easy.

After jumping out to a 29-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it took a Harrison Smith pass breakup of a throw into the end zone to Pat Freiermuth on the final play of regulation to ultimately seal away a 36-28 victory on Thursday night.

Dalvin Cook rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns to help Minnesota jump out to their massive lead. The Vikings out-gained the Steelers by a 300-66 margin in the first half in building their 23-0 advantage at the break.

Pittsburgh didn’t get on the board until four minutes were left in the third quarter on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Najee Harris. But the Steelers would score three touchdowns in a five-minute span — including a rushing touchdown from Harris and a 30-yard strike from Roethlisberger to James Washington — to trim the lead to 29-20 with 12:11 left to play.

Harris finished the game with 94 yards rushing with a touchdown and three catches for 10 yards and a touchdown.

A 62-yard touchdown strike from Kirk Cousins to K.J. Osborn then seemingly provided the knockout blow for the Vikings as the lead was extended to 36-20 with just under 11 minutes left to play. However, Ahkello Witherspoon intercepted Cousins for a second time to set up another Steelers touchdown, a 15-yard connection from Roethlisberger to Freiermuth, to make it an eight-point game with just over four minutes left to play.

Cook came through again catching a 17-yard pass from Cousins on third-and-8 with 2:38 left to allow Minnesota to force Pittsburgh to expend its allotment of timeouts. Pittsburgh took over with 2:16 left needing to go 96 yards for the tying touchdown and two-point conversion.

Chase Claypool caught a 38-yard bomb up the right sideline from Roethlisberger despite being interfered with by Bashaud Breeland to move Pittsburgh near midfield. Claypool then cost Pittsburgh several seconds celebrating a conversion on fourth-and-1 as the clock continued to tick down. Ultimately, the Steelers got one attempt from the 12-yard line with three seconds left as Smith dislodged the ball from Freiermuth to give the Vikings the victory.

No team in NFL history had lost a regular season game when leading by 29 or more points. The Vikings sure tried to become the first. The San Francisco 49ers rallied from a 35-7 deficit to beat the New Orleans Saints 38-35 in overtime in 1980. The Buffalo Bills hold the postseason record, overcoming a 32-point lead from the Houston Oilers in January, 1993.

Justin Jefferson caught a 14-yard touchdown from Cousins to open the scoring for Minnesota. After a 38-yard field goal from Greg Joseph, Cook’s two touchdown runs made it a 23-0 lead at the half. Joseph would add kicks from 42 and 25 yards in the third quarter to extend the lead to 29-0 before the Steelers began their rally.

Roethlisberger finished with 308 yards and three touchdowns with an interception for Pittsburgh with 240 yards coming in the second half.

Cousins threw for 216 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Minnesota.

46 responses to “Thursday Night Football: Vikings withstand furious Steelers rally in 36-28 victory

  1. Steelers won on last play that was close to catch, four days later they lose similar way.
    Poetic. Line between highs and lows of football so thin.

  2. Microcosm of the entire season in 1 game. 50% good, 50% bad. Dalvin’s interview at the end wasn’t elation despite the guys running to him with joy. He knows they got lucky and they have a big problem.

    Again, Zimmer lets them all the way down the field playing soft. He’s not going to change.

  3. That was a microcosm of the season. From in the stands it looked as if the WRs ran some poor routes and missed catchable balls. Cousins was far from perfect, but I bet he gets trashed; however, the trashing should largely be focused on Breeland and Boyd. There simply wasn’t enough beer at USBsnk tonight.

  4. It just goes to show that even the Vikings can’t choke away a 29 point lead. But oh, how they tried.

  5. You could tell that both teams were doing almost everything possible to try to break the Falcons’ records for choking.

  6. As a Bills fan, I have no skin in the game, but the refs tried their darndest to help the Steeler rally. Most notably, the facemask on Cousins INT or the numerous delay of game non-calls on Big Ben and his center.
    Funny how, as the game grew closer, almost every play was hanging in anticipation of a penalty. Made for TV (and Roger in attendance!)

  7. Defense sucked, O-line sucked, yet Ben got them back into the game from 29-0 to within 8 points. I know he is washed up, but not bad for the old warrior. He still gives the team its best chance to win each week. His 74th 300-yard game. Going off into the sunset with a half-decent season (3,100 yards, 19-7 TD/Int ratio, 65% completion, 4 more games). He is not the old Ben but he is not embarrassing himself when the O-line does offers some protection.

  8. Too little, too late for Steeler team in need of an overhaul. Furious rally or not, someone needs to be fired.

  9. 28 garbage time points! Watching Minnesota dangle that carrot and then whip it away was delicious,

  10. As a Steeler fan I don’t know what to even say. This is the third time in 4 weeks that we have been blown out early, and the second time that we came nearly all the way back. This is not a playoff team, but I will say this: Ben is a fighter. Always remember that. Old slow angry Ben damn near willed that team to victory. This in spite of a center who cannot snap the ball, a line that tried to get him killed in the first half, and a receiver in Claypool who does one boneheaded thing after another. Give the old man his due. We will miss him when he’s gone, I promise you.

  11. Zimmer is horrible, it’s no wonder allllll of his game are nail biters when he doesn’t play to win in the second half. Even the refs were trying to get him fired, they had some horrible late calls!
    Hey refs, just because a guy stomps and whines like a 2 yo doesn’t mean you have to throw the flag 5 seconds after the play. Number 20 was hilarious, he should be in the WWE!

  12. The Danish Vikings of old would have been embarassed with this pitiful performance by their namesake team. How do you blow a 29 point lead to a struggling team and almost lose the game?

  13. Hate on Roethlisberger all you want but he brought his team back. He absolutely threaded the needle on that final play. It’s up to the pass catcher at that point. He wanted it. The Steelers defense not so much. No telling if the Steelers would’ve been able to convert the 2 and send it to OT. But one thing is for sure, Roethlisberger can still get it done in crunch time. He’s been a starter for all these years for a reason. He deserves the HOF when it’s time.

  14. They’ll win just enough for Zim to get an extension… LOL. The Viking way. Always just good enough to talk about next year.

  15. I’ve been telling people since September that this Viking team is more than capable of 7, maybe even 8 wins this season.
    And finally this team is proving me right.
    Only one more to go!!!

  16. When you’re a Vikings fan that watches every game, the rest of the NFL games are really quite boring like 8 times out of 10. Vikings are must watch TV in league of mediocre entertainment.

  17. I would like to personally thank the steelers for their participation in the 2021 NFL season. See you next year.

  18. And yet I hear Ben is washed up. The defence allowed Cook 200 yards rushing and Ben is the problem.

  19. Don’t forget the Vikings losing to the winless Lions on the final play four days ago for more poetry

  20. If I have to hear how good of a coach Tomlin is one more time, I’m gonna go insane. Poor decision making, poor preparation, poor clock management, poor player management and the list goes on. Stop blaming Ben for his mistakes. That man is playing his heart out with and oline that can’t push anyone, receivers who drop easy passes and act like divas. Matt Canada is an offensive genius? Huh? I would love to see a breakdown of the numbers of when he calls the plays and when Ben does. The team rallies around Ben when he has play calling responsibilities and I know for a fact they score more points and produce less turnovers when he does. We all see it but the so called professionals running the team. The staff needs to get blown up and restructured.

  21. They would’ve had to fire Zimmer if he’d blown yet another lead because of his defense, right?

  22. Claypool turning into a clown WR. The penalties and stupid decisions on his part should warrant some bench time.

  23. No stakes in the two teams but Tomlin is a fool. Why go for 2 that early? He could’ve been down 8 and kept all the pressure on MN. Absolutely killed the momentum Pittsburgh had and for no reason. It turned a 1 possession game, into two. Just dumb!

  24. Please, people. Big Ben has one great game in ages and you guys act like he is the 2nd coming. Dude is done. Any great player can throw in a great game in every now and then. He sucks and so does his team. Ravens own the AFC North no matter how much you try say the Ravens should have lost every close they won and lost every close game they lost. Pure hate. You are what your record says you are!

  25. allinforallen says:
    December 10, 2021 at 12:04 am
    As a Bills fan, I have no skin in the game, but the refs tried their darndest to help the Steeler rally. Most notably, the facemask on Cousins INT or the numerous delay of game non-calls on Big Ben and his center.
    Funny how, as the game grew closer, almost every play was hanging in anticipation of a penalty. Made for TV (and Roger in attendance!)


    The same reason why they won’t hire full time refs – when the cheating gets caught the NFL can claim they were contractors without any repercussions

  26. “No team in NFL history had lost a regular season game when leading by 29 or more points.”

    As a lifelong Vikes fan, when they flashed that graphic on the screen, I was sure they were going to lose. The team hold a lot of records no team wants, (anyone want to watch Tony Dorsett score from the Dallas one again?).

  27. Me, near the end of the game; “Well, at least they can only tie the game on this long drive”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.