Vikings Offense Poses Similar Threat as Titans to Seahawks

It doesn't get any easier for the Seahawks' defense this Sunday. After playing 42 minutes against Derrick Henry and the Titans, the unit faces a Vikings offense stocked with the necessary firepower to make for yet another long afternoon.
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With an elite stable of offensive weapons, the Titans walked into Lumen Field on Sunday and spoiled the return of the 12s with a 33-30 upset over the Seahawks in overtime. 

As its offense faltered through the final three periods of play, Seattle's defense wore down to the tune of a near 20-minute time of possession differential while it desperately searched for answers to slow down the Tennessee attack. But running back Derrick Henry took one long look at the gassed unit and said, "I don't think you have the facilities for that, big man" as he exploded for three second-half touchdowns to put his team over the top in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. 

Heading back out on the road for the next two weeks, the Seahawks will look to regroup versus a Vikings team they've had plenty of success against in recent years. Hosting them at Lumen Field in each of the past three seasons, the Seahawks have gone 3-0 while outscoring the Vikings 85-63. Each game has gotten progressively closer in that time, however, with the two sides' most recent matchup being decided by just one point on a last-second touchdown connection between Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver DK Metcalf. 

But Minnesota offers a very similar challenge to the one Tennessee presented this past week: a three-headed monster of top-tier playmakers and a quarterback more than capable of executing his team's gameplan to a tee. While the Vikings operate in more under center looks than the Titans do, the philosophy of their approach is relatively the same; they want to pound the rock with running back Dalvin Cook and methodically work their way down the field with one of the league's most underrated receiving duos in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. 

Don't overlook second-year wideout K.J. Osborn either. Through the first two games of the season, Osborn has one more reception (12) than Jefferson (11) and more receiving yards (167 to 136) on four less targets (15 to 19). He's become a reliable tertiary receiving threat for quarterback Kirk Cousins here in the early going, filling the void left by tight end Kyle Rudolph's departure to the Giants and Irv Smith Jr.'s season-ending meniscus tear.

Personnel-wise, this is once again an unideal matchup for the Seahawks, particularly in the passing game. It's too early in the week to tell if there will be a change made at right cornerback, but assuming Tre Flowers is starting for a third-straight game, expect Cousins to hammer the right side of the defense. The fourth-year corner has failed to show any growth through the first two weeks of the year, most recently being picked apart by Julio Jones and company for 102 yards on four catches. A technician like Thielen or Jefferson could make Flowers' afternoon a rather long one.

How Seattle handles the passing game in general will be interesting. Against Tennessee, it mainly rushed four while playing two-high safety looks for most of the afternoon. Consequently, the pass rush wasn't able to consistently get home on its own, often affording Ryan Tannehill enough time to process his reads and fire from a relatively clean pocket. Neither Flowers nor D.J. Reed will be able to stick to Thielen and Jefferson for too long, so there must be some form of consistent pressure in Cousins' face to avoid backbreaking gains—particularly on third downs. 

What the Vikings ultimately live and die by, however, is their rushing attack. And the Seahawks might be at a disadvantage if Bryan Mone (elbow) can't go for the second week in a row, though the concern here really is how they play the run off the edge. Interior defenders Poona Ford and Al Woods both had strong outings against the Titans, but Henry still rushed for 189 yards on the day. Simply put: they cannot let Cook follow suit and create on the outside.

But much like last week, Seattle's fate will be determined by its offense. Shane Waldron will be tasked to orchestrate a more efficient, surgical approach that eats up clock and keeps the defense off the field. If he fails and the defense has to play 40-plus minutes for yet another week, the Seahawks have no chance to get back above .500 this Sunday.

The Vikings' offensive identity is predicated on being able to control the flow of the game. So the more time and opportunities they have to possess the ball, the worse the afternoon will get for Pete Carroll's crew.