By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings got their first win of the season with Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London.
Following Sunday’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Leslie Frazier was asked about who his starting quarterback would be when the team returns from their bye in Week 6. He has his guy, but was non-committal beyond the immediate future.
“If you’re asking, our quarterback is Christian Ponder,” Frazier said. “I don’t know what I would base it on (now) other than what I’ve seen with the naked eye,” Frazier said after the game. “I’d have to look at the tape, look at our football team and then come back and evaluate what we need to do to come back a better team. That’s what I base it on. I think it would premature for me to say anything other than what I’m saying now.”
Cassel made his statement by completing 16-of-25 passes for 248 and two touchdowns. He also posted a 123.4 quarterback rating – a higher rating than Ponder’s best as a professional.
Cassel completed 10 of his 16 passes to Jerome Simpson and Greg Jennings, including the two scores to Jennings.
“Matt played phenomenal,” Jennings said. “He’s a true professional. Matt doesn’t carry himself as a backup. He carries himself as a starter. He prepares as a starter. He got an opportunity and he came up big.”
Cassel had a strong game, giving the team its best chance to win, but he was far from perfect. He missed several open receivers early in the game and could have had at least a couple interceptions.
Vikings hang on to avoid another late game collapse
The Vikings were in a similar situation to the ones they faced in both Weeks 2 and 3. The offense had a chance to put the game away and did not. The defense was put on the field in a one-score game and under three minutes remaining.
“We’ve had some tough losses,” Frazier said after the game. “In the fourth quarter of every one of these ballgames we were right there. So to come away with a win in the fashion that we did, this many miles away from home, knowing what it takes to keep a team together after some of those tough losses.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers drove the ball down the field to the Viking six-yard line. As the pocket started to collapse around Ben Roethlisberger, Everson Griffen grabbed the big quarterback around the shoulder and pulled him down. The ball came out and Kevin Williams recovered to seal the victory.
“Man, we needed that bad,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “I’d hate to lose this game and have a seven-hour plane ride back.”
The Vikings defense could easily have felt like, “Here we go, again,” but they didn’t and made a big play at the end of the game.
“We didn’t have the mentality that it’s going to happen again,” linebacker Chad Greenway said.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.