MINNEAPOLIS — Tommy Kramer knew that it was only a matter of time before the Minnesota Vikings' wide receivers got involved in the offense.
That time came Sunday, when Hassan Jones got open deep on several occasions and caught 6 Kramer passes for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-7.
"When you're playing a team that blitzes you and doesn't just sit back and play zone, you got a chance to make some big plays," said Kramer, who connected with wide receivers only six times in Minnesota's first two games. "I had excellent protection and they gave us single coverage at times. It was nice to be able to go deep for a change."
Viking Coach Jerry Burns said: "Everyone wants us to throw the ball downfield, throw the ball to the wide receivers. But you have to take what they give you. If they take it away and they're in a soft deep zone against us, we have to go underneath."
Pittsburgh Coach Chuck Noll watched in frustration as his team fell to 0-3, the Steelers' worst start since 1970.
"We got hurt by some big post patterns," he said. "We knew what they were going to do and they did it. But we couldn't stop it."
Kramer completed 19 of 27 passes for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Vikings improved their record to 2-1.
Minnesota's first possession ended with Kramer's 55-yard scoring pass play to Jones for a 7-0 lead.
Pittsburgh, which has scored only 17 points this season, came right back to tie the game as quarterback Mark Malone set up his 18-yard touchdown pass to Walter Abercrombie with a 37-yard pass to Louis Lipps.
Malone, who entered the game as the NFL's lowest-rated passer, completed his first four passes for 70 yards, but soon reverted to his earlier form, going 1 for 9 to end the first half.
Kramer's 16-yard touchdown pass to Jones gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead with 2:10 left in the first quarter. The only scoring of the second quarter, Chuck Nelson's career-long 48-yard field goal, came after Joey Browner intercepted a Malone pass.
Minnesota's two second-half touchdowns came on a 12-yard run by Allen Rice and a 9-yard Kramer-to-Jim Gustafson pass.