LONDON — The Minnesota Vikings got on the jet back to the United States with newfound reasons to believe they can salvage this season.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, an unsuccessful London trip means it already could be time to start looking toward next year.
The Vikings and Steelers both arrived in Britain knowing that only a win would give them a realistic chance of fighting for a playoff spot. After Minnesota's entertaining 34-27 win at Wembley Stadium, the optimism is certainly back in the Vikings' locker room.
"There is a sense of relief, for sure," Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier said. "We've had some tough losses.
"In the fourth quarter of every one of these ballgames we were right there. For whatever reason, it didn't work out for us."
At Wembley Stadium, the Vikings' defense finally found a way of finishing the job. With the Steelers looking for a tying touchdown, Everson Griffen stripped Ben Roethlisberger of the ball on the 6-yard line with 19 seconds left and Kevin Williams recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
Greg Jennings and Adrian Peterson provided the offensive spark for the Vikings, with each scoring two touchdowns.
Here are five things we learned from the Vikings' win over the Steelers in London:
PONDERING PONDER: Matt Cassel made the most of his first opportunity to play for the Minnesota Vikings, and suddenly Christian Ponder's starting spot may not be all that secure. With Ponder sidelined by a rib injury, Cassel went 16 for 25 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he had no turnovers — although he did fumble once but the ball was recovered by Jerome Simpson for a 10-yard gain. "It was a great night for me," Cassel said, "and I was really excited about the fact that I was able to contribute to the team." He was quick to add that Ponder "is a heck of a quarterback," and that "hopefully he gets healthy and comes back soon." As far as Frazier is concerned, there's no quarterback controversy. "If you're asking, our quarterback is Christian Ponder," the coach said.