PITTSBURGH – Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings were anything but perfect.
The Vikings couldn’t gain a half-yard when it might have turned the game, then watched the Steelers’ big-play defense end their unbeaten season with two long touchdown returns in the final 6?1/2? minutes.
LaMarr Woodley’s 77-yard fumble return and Keyaron Fox’s 82-yard interception return on turnovers by Favre allowed the Steelers to turn back Minnesota’s repeated comeback attempts, and the Steelers rode three major defensive stands to a 27-17 victory Sunday.
The anticipated quarterback showdown between Favre and Ben Roethlisberger became a defensive duel. And the Super Bowl champion Steelers (5-2) – No. 1 defensively the past two seasons – are tough to beat in any game that’s decided by defense.
The Vikings (6-1) conceded as much in the third quarter when, after failing to score from a half-yard out on three plays in which Peterson got the ball only once, they settled for a field goal that kept Pittsburgh in the lead at 13-10.
“That’s the biggest point of the game,” safety Ryan Clark said. “You have the best running back in the world and you don’t give it to him. They’re saying they can’t beat us running, and that’s a major statement when you have the guy they have back there.”
The touchdown put the Steelers up 20-10 with 6:23 remaining, after the Vikings drove to the Steelers 8 and were in position to take their first lead since Peterson’s 2-yard touchdown run put them up 7-3 in the second quarter.
The Vikings weren’t done, not in this season of last-minute surprises. Percy Harvin answered with an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown, but Favre couldn’t pull this one out after twice previously rallying the Vikings in the closing minutes.
The Vikings drove to the Steelers 18 with just over a minute remaining. But Fox stepped in front of Favre’s pass intended for Chester Taylor and returned it almost the length of the field. Favre had been intercepted only twice previously.