At the 14:11 mark in the second quarter, Sebastian Janikowski chipped in a 37-yard field goal to break a scoreless draw between the Vikings and the Seahawks.
While the game featured all the trappings of an offensive boon taking place around the league (both teams have either been funneling collegiate concepts into their system for years, or are making up for it of late), two teams built around a stout, physical defense thudded into one another for the better part of 60 minutes. The closest thing we had to a touchdown in the first half was negated by a Vikings pass rush, which forced a hurried Russell Wilson to float a horrendous interception in front of the goal line. Kirk Cousins went into the break with 27 passing yards, and finished with 208—his third-worst mark of the season. Wilson finished with a career-low 72 yards passing.
Make no mistake, the scoring revolution isn’t dead or dying. Accomplished offensive minds will most likely maintain a stranglehold on the offseason hiring cycle as owners try to recreate some of the epic offensive shootouts we’ve seen this season. Real-life Madden is good for business. But the last two prime-time games, starting with Sunday night’s 15-6 Bears win over the Rams, lent a much-needed nip of regression to the mean as we approach what could be one of the most aesthetically enjoyable playoff fields in recent memory.
Sean McVay, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees—none of it is as readily consumable without the counterweight. Consider Bobby Wagner knifing into the backfield the much-needed acidity in the dish. It may not get the fawning, slow-motion treatment and glowing dissection on the broadcast, but there is something cinematic about watching a middle linebacker lean into the opposing backfield just before the snap when he learns the play. With 2:05 left in the third quarter, Wagner inched forward just before the ball hit Cousins’s hands and eyed the gap between a pair of blocks emerge just as Latavius Murray leaned into the hole. He plowed into Murray and dropped him with a hard shoulder, shuffling away from the play screaming “LET’S GOOOOOOOOO!”
We may have forgotten how to enjoy a game like this. A team with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs shouldn’t be treating red-zone possessions with 9:38 to go in the fourth quarter of a one-score game like final pilgrimage, and yet there the Vikings were, buzzing a nervous ball into double coverage, praying it would find Kyle Rudolph. Monday’s debacle may force them into a period of much-needed soul searching as Cousins struggles to support the weight of his massive contract, and the impossible expectations he inherited after an unparalleled free-agency sweepstakes this offseason. A team with Wilson shouldn’t be celebrating the first touchdown of the game—for any team—at the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter like it was found water in the desert, either.
Just remember that this is good. It's necessary. With both teams still on track to find the postseason, the NFL needs defensive headhunters to cloud the narrative. Should the Vikings clinch the final wild-card spot in the NFC, there will be four fascinating teams led by their defense—Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas and Chicago—swimming in the water around the Rams and Saints.
The Ravens and Texans are also lurking in the AFC.
It may have been the grand design for us to become smitten—totally bulled over—by the gaudy offensive numbers. That mission has been accomplished. But it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to see a high-scoring team sweat it out with everything on the line.