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Photo - Julian Finney (Getty Images)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - For reasons that will surprise nobody, this blog has typically been a bit of a drag to read and write this season. An 0-3 start with two blown leads in the final minutes will do that to you. But the Vikings won yesterday and they looked like a completely different, rejuvenated team. So let's enjoy this and go positive, if only for today.
Now, that's not to say that there weren't any issues yesterday. For the third straight week, the Vikings did almost give this this away. The offense stalled at the end, the defense bent but this time they didn't break! Ok that was my one negative note. Let's have some fun and celebrate the Vikings 34-27 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Matt Cassel HAS to start against Carolina after the bye...
Fans have been clamoring for Cassel to get the start ever since the Vikings signed him during the offseason. Watching Christian Ponder meltdown for the first three weeks of the season didn't help his situation with the Vikings but seeing what Cassel can do and finally admitting what Christian Ponder cannot, it's safe to say that the long-term future of Christian Ponder as Vikings QB is nonexistent.
Cassel's line on Sunday read 16-for-25 passing for 248 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT and a 123.4 passer rating (to compare, Ponder's best passing game this season pulled a 75.3 passer rating). Maybe even better than Cassel's statistics, he looked competent, comfortable and like a quarterback in the pocket. Oh yeah, did I mention that he did all of this against the third toughest pass defense in the league!
For the first time all year we saw receivers catching the ball in stride and running for yards after the catch. We saw a QB who made it through the scripted first drive and didn't meltdown when things began to move quickly. The game, despite the festive environment in London, never seemed to big for Cassel.
After the game, head coach Leslie Frazier continued his good guy mantra by claiming that Christian is still the starting quarterback but when he has a chance to watch the film, take that 9-hour flight home to Minnesota and takes a week to think about it, Matt Cassel HAS to be the starting quarterback when the Vikings take the field against the Carolina Panthers in week 6.
Jerome Felton returns and Adrian Peterson...is...LOOSE!
It's tough to say that it was Jerome Felton that the team was missing during the first three weeks of the season, but it's also tough to ignore the fact that in his first game back from suspension, Adrian Peterson runs for 140 yards and two TDs, Cassel stays protected in the pocket and the offense clicks leading to a Vikings victory.
Whatever the reason you'd like to use, Adrian Peterson was back to his old form that took the league by storm during the 2012 season. Against the 5th toughest defense in the Pittsburgh Steelers, Adrian Sliced and diced his way to a 6.1 yards per carry average and 140 yards. To see Peterson break tackles, fend off defenders and then pull away from the Steelers on the 60-yard run was completely awesome and was what we were all missing the first three weeks of the year.
While he left the day without a catch or a single run, Felton's impact was felt in both the run game and the passing game. Matt Cassel, who was without pressure most of the afternoon, was only sacked one time yesterday in London. Again, that's a collaborative effort and not only Jerome Felton, but my goodness, it's hard not to see some correlation.
Greg Jennings was finally able to be Greg Jennings...
When Greg Jennings signed with the Vikings this past offseason, Minnesota fans across the Midwest went absolutely crazy. They had personally seen Greg Jennings torch the Vikings as a member of the Packers for the past six or so years. That's why it was so frustrating when everybody saw how much Greg Jennings was struggling through the first three weeks of the 2013 season.
Enter quarterback swap here.
How good was it to see Greg Jennings bust out yesterday with Matt Cassel under center and look like the Greg Jennings we all expected him to be? All week long from London, Greg Jennings was clamoring about how excited he was that Cassel would potentially get a shot. You couldn't have wiped that smile off of his face if you had tried. Sunday afternoon we saw exactly why.
Jennings was only targeted four times, but he managed to reel in three of those balls and tallied 92 yards and two touchdowns. The most Jennings play of the day was the 7-yard out pass where Cassel hit Greg in stride and he broke off 70-yards on his way to the end zone.
Would you like some more "Juice"?
We took it as a bill of goods over the offseason when offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, wide receivers coach George Stewart and head coach Leslie Frazier continued to tell the world that Jerome Simpson was sitting on a big year. After his first season in Minnesota saw just 26 catches for 274 yards it seemed crazy to hear the coaches share this claim.
Through four games this season, Jerome has been sticking it to the doubters and has proven that maybe last year was the anomaly. So far this year, Simpson has 19 catches for 342 yards and is averaging 18 yards per catch. That's right, the Minnesota Vikings have a little bit of a deep passing game!
If only from his over the top first down celebration, it's also clear that Simpson is playing with passion. Jerome is also clicking with Matt Cassel after he was targeted 11 times for 7 receptions and 124 yards Sunday against the Steelers.
Defensive Line finds a way to pressure Big-Ben...
Heading into week four against the Steelers, the Minnesota Vikings had recorded only four sacks with two coming from the defensive line and two coming from Erin Henderson. Yesterday afternoon, the Vikings more than doubled their season total for sacks and all but one of them came in the form of pressure from the defensive line.
The Vikings as a team tallied five sacks in total (2.5 from Jared Allen, 1 from Everson Griffen, 1 from Chad Greenway and a .5 sack for rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd). Looking back at the game film and you can see that the Vikings probably should have had more like nine or ten sacks but, as advertised, "Big Ben" was elusive in the pocket and avoided being taken down a handful of times.
The Vikings have struggled this season in the secondary so it will be important for the defensive line to get pressure out of their four man rush.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN