Closing Thoughts: Fueled by Crowd, Seahawks Creep Closer to Wild Card
Drawing ever closer to clinching one of the NFC’s two coveted wild card spots, the Seattle Seahawks handled business at home with a physical 21-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Dueling in an old-fashioned grinder, both teams combined to score three points through the first three quarters of action. But with their backs against the wall, safety Bradley McDougald and Seattle’s defense came through in the clutch, denying quarterback Kirk Cousin and Minnesota at the goal line and blocking a field goal in the fourth quarter. Following the two huge stops, the Seahawks padded their lead with a two-yard plunge by Chris Carson and a fumble return for a touchdown by Justin Coleman, putting the Vikings away late.
“I know you guys might not like it as much as we do,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “But we love the heck out of this one.”
A sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field seemed to love the heck out of it too, turning up the volume in comparison to previous home games this season. Feeding off the energy, the Seahawks simply need to win in San Francisco next Sunday to earn a playoff berth.
Some thoughts on Seattle’s fourth consecutive win and what it means with three games left on the schedule:
- Russell Wilson may have played one of his worst statistical games as an NFL quarterback, completing only 10 out of 20 pass attempts for a career-low 72 yards while posting a 37.9 quarterback rating. He also threw the second-worst interception of his career, slipping on a pass play at the goal line and failing to throw the ball out of bounds as it landed in the hands of linebacker Eric Kendricks. But the Seahawks shouldn’t be concerned about their franchise signal caller moving forward, as this game will be nothing more than a bump in the road. Despite being held under 100 yards passing, Wilson did make a beautiful throw to the end zone in the direction of David Moore, only for the receiver to be unable to get his second foot down inbounds. He also contributed a 40-yard run on Seattle’s final offensive scoring drive, showing he’s still got plenty of burst in his 30-year old legs.
- Minnesota entered Monday night with the seventh-best run defense in the NFL, limiting opponents to 99 rushing yards per game. Seattle didn’t care, however, running the ball 40 times for 216 yards before Wilson took a couple of kneels at the end of regulation. Carson led the way with 90 rushing yards on 22 carries, running angry against a stout front seven throughout the evening. Behind him, rookie Rashaad Penny continued to be electric, reversing field on a pitch to turn a minimal gain into a 17-yard pickup. He finished with eight carries for 44 yards, providing the Seahawks with a nice one-two punch out of the backfield. Wilson contributed to the cause as well, rushing for 63 yards on five carries.
- Whether Wilson wants to admit it or not, the Seahawks missed Doug Baldwin immensely in this game. The Vikings boasted one of the league’s best defenses at preventing explosive plays, giving up only 46 of them in their first 12 games. Wilson tried to go deep several times with minimal success, though he did draw a questionable pass interference penalty against cornerback Xavier Woods on a deep throw to receiver Tyler Lockett. Baldwin earns his money with intermediate routes and his presence would have been helpful against a talented defense that had vertical throws on lockdown most of the night. If Seattle has any intentions of making noise in the playoffs, they’ll need the savvy veteran available to play, even if he’s not 100 percent.
- Reserve guard Jordan Simmons played outstanding football in his second NFL start and he’s building a nice little resume for himself. He replaced D.J. Fluker last month in Los Angeles and held his own against defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, helping Seattle rush for 273 yards in a close defeat. Filling in for Fluker again on Monday night, he made several key blocks including helping Carson find the end zone in the final quarter. As Simmons continues to impress, he might give the Seahawks an interesting dilemma heading into the offseason in regard to plans at the right guard position for next year.
- Sacks are one of the most exciting plays in football, but Frank Clark’s lone sack against Cousins took it to another level. Early in the second quarter with the Vikings trying to convert on third down, Clark shot inside behind defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson on a twist stunt. Matched up against right guard Mike Remmers, he bulldozed the veteran lineman and brought down Cousins by the ankles, forcing Minnesota to punt. With this highlight-reel play, Clark now has a career-best 11.0 sacks with three games remaining, further increasing his value as he heads towards free agency in March. Rookie Jacob Martin also deserves a ton of credit, as the sixth-round pick out of Temple continues to harness his craft rushing off the edge. He hit Cousins twice tonight, including forcing the late strip-sack that Coleman returned for a touchdown to seal the win.
- Playing in his first game action since Week 4, Mychal Kendricks put together a solid effort coming off suspension for Seattle. Early on, he seemed to be a bit eager attacking the run, leaving him liable against play action passes. However, as the game wore on, he looked more and more comfortable and the veteran linebacker finished with five tackles, including a key run stop at the goal line in the fourth quarter. He’s been on a crash course trying to learn the Seahawks defense since returning to practice three weeks ago, and while Carroll admitted he may not have a full grasp of the scheme given the circumstances, he’s clearly going to be a valuable asset as long as K.J. Wright remains out with a knee injury.
- After getting lit up for over 440 passing yards last weekend by Nick Mullens and the 49ers, the Seahawks’ young secondary bounced back with their finest performance of the season. Shaquill Griffin held up well in coverage working against star receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, recording two passes defensed and not allowing either to beat him deep. He also tackled much more effectively than he did against San Francisco, stopping Dalvin Cook for a four-yard loss on a screen and finishing with seven combined tackles. Rookie Tre Flowers continued to prove he’s unflappable, recovering from a 48-yard reception given up to Diggs to eventually deflect a would-be touchdown in the end zone on the Vikings final drive. He finished the night with eight total tackles, second to only Bobby Wagner.
- Kudos to John Schneider, who has shown he hasn’t lost touch and became the winningest general manager in franchise history with this victory. The architect of Seattle’s back-to-back Super Bowl teams in 2013 and 2014 dealt with plenty of criticism this offseason as the team jettisoned high-profile stars such as Richard Sherman, but the Seahawks had a solid draft and most of his free agent signings have panned out well, allowing the team’s reset to run much more smoothly than anticipated. Schneider remains one of the best in the business and getting this team to potentially a 10-win season may be his finest work yet.