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Big London crowd revels in Vikings' win over Steelers

  • By Henry Hodgson NFL.com
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LONDON -- There was a packed house at Wembley Stadium as 83,518 fans watched the Minnesota Vikings defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27.

British fans were treated to a performance to remember, as Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scored on runs of 60 and 7 yards, respectively, on his way to a 140-yard outing against a Steelers defense that was powerless to stop him.

Vikings receiver Greg Jennings also enjoyed his best outing in purple since transferring allegiance from the rival Green Bay Packers, hauling in two touchdown passes, including a 70-yard score in the first quarter.

Regardless of whether you were a fan of the Steelers or Vikings, or sporting any of the other 30 team jerseys that were on display Sunday at Wembley, you had quite a day. Fans began arriving at the NFL-organized tailgate party six hours before the game itself began, and within an hour, the streets surrounding the stadium were awash with a sea of NFL jerseys of every hue.

In overwhelming evidence, though, was Adrian Peterson's No. 28, as the Vikings enjoyed a measure of home-field advantage having given up a game at the Metrodome to play in front of the British fans.

"It was electric," Peterson said after his two-touchdown performance. "There was a good mix of purple and yellow, but I think the purple trumped it. It felt like a home game."

Those fans were armed with purple Vikings flags, which they waved throughout the national anthems, featuring Gene Simmons, lead singer of KISS, who was fortunate to be accompanied by a female choir to drown out his tuneless attempt at "The Star-Spangled Banner."

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Celebrities from across the globe joined Simmons in attending the game, with "Entourage" actor Jeremy Piven, British songstress Cheryl Cole, former world heavyweight boxing champion David Haye, hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa and a selection of British sportsmen and women all showing up to cheer on the Steelers and Vikings and soak up the unique atmosphere of this game.

And both teams brought local legends along for the ride, with Steelers hero Franco Harris and Vikings 12-time Pro Bowl pick Randall McDaniel acting as honorary captains for their respective teams.

The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the pregame introduction of reigning NFL MVP Peterson, but the savvy crowd also joined in with the ubiquitous cheer of "HEATH" every time Steelers tight end Heath Miller touched the ball.

"They were just full of energy." Peterson said. "The fans were crazy. It was a great atmosphere to play in."

The pregame atmosphere was playoff-like, and fans were rewarded with the best of the seven regular-season games to be played in the United Kingdom since the NFL kicked off the international endeavor in 2007. As the third quarter ended with the Vikings in control, holding a 34-17 lead, the fans kicked off a Wembley wave, which swiftly ended as the Steelers scored to get back into the game.

"The whole week long, the fans here have been tremendous," said quarterback Matt Cassel, who threw for 248 yards and two scores in his Vikings debut. "It felt like a home game. Fans were into the game. It was a great experience just to play at Wembley."


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With the Steelers driving and twice inside the Vikings' red zone with under five minutes remaining in the game, the stadium came alive, making a Seattle 12th Man-type effort to foil Pittsburgh's offense. In the end, the Vikings' defense got their fifth sack of the game, with Everson Griffen and Chad Greenway forcing a Roethlisberger fumble at the Minnesota 6-yard line with 19 seconds remaining to ice the game.

Seconds later, "Purple Rain" blared from the Wembley Stadium speakers, and Vikings players high-fived as their British trip came to an end with their first win of the season.

"I'll always have a special place in my heart for Wembley and London," relieved Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "The fan noise, we felt at times like we were back at Mall of America (Field)."

The Vikings will be back in Minnesota early Monday, while the NFL's legion of British supporters will return to Wembley in Week 8 when the Jacksonville Jaguars seek some London luck against the San Francisco 49ers.

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