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Pittsburgh's Keyaron Fox (57) returns an interception 82 yards for a touchdown as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre watches in the fourth quarter Sunday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Steelers top mistake-prone Favre, Vikings 27-17

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Steelers top mistake-prone Favre, Vikings 27-17
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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense is all about taking chances, playing risky, daring an opponent to find a way to win but only rarely allowing that to happen.


Even by the Steelers' standards, this was a huge gamble: Giving Brett Favre three chances in the second half to take control of a game that, while it's not yet midseason, was potentially pivotal for both teams.

Three chances weren't enough, even for Favre -- not on a day when the Steelers reminded the rest of the NFL that there's nothing better than a defense good enough to outscore one of the league's best offenses.

The Steelers mounted one of their best goal line stands in seasons -- preventing the Vikings from scoring from a few feet out in the third quarter -- then scored twice on long returns created by Favre turnovers in the final 6½ minutes for a 27-17 victory Sunday that ended Minnesota's unbeaten run to start the season.

"We put some good pressure on Favre, sacked him a few times, got a few turnovers and won this game," said LaMarr Woodley, who scored on a 77-yard return of Favre's fumble. "That was definitely a finish."

Not a good one for the Vikings (6-1), who couldn't get a touchdown after driving to the Steelers' 1, 8 and 19 during the second half.

"We were in position to win the football game," coach Brad Childress said. "That's what disappointing -- not discouraging, but disappointing."

The big plays kept coming after Woodley's return made it 20-10, even though it wasn't either offenses making them. Percy Harvin returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Vikings to within 20-17 and, after the Steelers (5-2) punted, gave Favre another chance to win it.

Ask the 49ers, the Ravens and the Packers if that's a good idea.

Favre nearly pulled it off, too, finding Adrian Peterson on a 29-yard completion to the Steelers' 26. But, two plays later, he forced a pass that bounced off running back Chester Taylor's hands to linebacker Keyaron Fox for an 82-yard return touchdown, only Favre's third interception this season.

Many defenses don't have two return scores like this in a season. The Steelers had two in half a quarter, the first time since 1998 they've had two defensive touchdowns in a game.

It was the first game in NFL history to feature three touchdown returns of 75 yards or longer in a fourth quarter.

"It's a shock how long it took for people to remember this defense can play," safety Ryan Clark said. "We don't like it coming into the game and people saying it's going to be a shootout."

To Clark, the two defensive scores weren't the biggest plays made by a Pittsburgh defense that, last season, narrowly missed becoming the first since the 1970 merger to lead the league in fewest points, yards, rushing yards and passing yards allowed.

The Steelers turned aside the Vikings on three successive plays from a half-yard out halfway through the third quarter, forcing them to settle for an 18-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell that kept Pittsburgh in the lead at 13-10.

Peterson carried the ball only on first down; Favre threw incomplete into heavy coverage on the next two plays.

"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."

None of the Vikings' players publicly second-guessed the play calling, although Peterson was the NFL's leading rusher before being held to 69 yards on 18 carries.

"We had three chances," said Favre, whose 334 yards passing were a career high in a game in which he didn't throw for a touchdown. "It's easy to look back now and say we should've done this or should've done that. I would think handing it to Adrian, he'd get it in. I'm sure he will say he should've went in, but ..."

Said Peterson, "Playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their defense -- I felt it's the best defense we're going to face -- you've got to get those seven points. I was highly upset about having to settle for three points."

Settling for the loss was worse.

"Everybody's mindset on the sideline was, 'We're going to win this game. We don't know how we're going to do it, but we're going to win this game,' " linebacker Ben Leber said. "That's why we're so disappointed."

The Steelers have a way of discouraging such teams -- they have never lost to a 6-0 team, beating the Vikings, Patriots (2004), 49ers (1984) and Bengals (1975).

Pioneer staff reports