Thursday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings narrowly survive Pittsburgh Steelers fightback

    The Minnesota Vikings held off a comeback for the ages from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    (CNN)The Minnesota Vikings endured a late Pittsburgh Steelers rally to keep their playoff hopes alive with a 36-28 victory on Thursday Night Football.

    Having surged into a commanding 29-0 lead by late in the third quarter, the Vikings found themselves inches away from an embarrassing final-play collapse -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's incomplete pass to Pat Freiermuth in the end zone quashing a potential comeback for the ages.
    Vikings safety Harrison Smith flew into tight end Freiermuth to force the incompletion, sparing Minnesota blushes and lifting his team to 6-7 on the year.
      Roethlisberger was keen not to put any blame on the 23-year-old rookie, who was said to be devastated by his dropped catch.
        "He's taking it pretty hard," Roethlisberger told reporters.
        "I pulled him next to my locker and talked to him a little bit at the end. I got a lot of faith and belief and trust in that guy -- he's got a lot of heart.
        "He'll eat this for a while and he shouldn't because it's not on him."
          Pat Freiermuth -- under pressure from three Vikings defenders -- can't hold on to Roethlisberger's last-second pass.

          Cooking with gas

          Smith's heroics took the spotlight away from a blistering performance by Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who looked to have set his team on track for a straightforward win with 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
          Justin Jefferson's first quarter touchdown from Vikings QB Kirk Cousin -- topped up by a Greg Joseph field goal -- had set the home team on their way before Cook's two quickfire touchdowns threatened to turn the contest into a procession.
          Dalvin Cook carries the ball during the second quarter.
          Joseph added two more field goals after halftime to make it 29 unanswered points, the Steelers only getting on the scoreboard with two minutes remaining in the third quarter when Roethlisberger threw a short touchdown pass to Najee Harris.
          Three minutes into the fourth and a once unassailable lead had evaporated to nine points -- Harris adding his second touchdown and Roethlisberger throwing a stunning 30-yard touchdown pass to James Washington.
          Clearly keen not to be upstaged, Cousins proceeded to one-up his opposing signal caller by spiraling a spectacular 62-yard touchdown pass to K.J Osborn -- capping a 308-yard, two touchdown performance -- to restore the Vikings' cushion to 16 points.
          Yet the Steelers again refused to lie down. Roethlisberger threw his third touchdown pass of the game to Freiermuth before finding Diontae Johnson for the two-point conversion to tee up a grandstand finish, but Smith's intervention denied that same Big Ben-Freirmuth combo from completing a fabled comeback.