In a game that featured numerous big plays for big yardage, what led to Seattle's 30-20 win over the Vikings was being able to string together long drives – one in each quarter – against a beleaguered Vikings defense that created the turning point of the game.
One thing the Vikings knew coming into Sunday's game was that Seattle and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson try to move the ball methodically, eating time off the clock with the running game and throwing short, safe passes to move the chains and sustain drives. Their performance Sunday was almost a textbook example of that philosophy.
"You don't want teams putting together long drives," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "… When people run the ball as well as they ran it today, that's the result of it. It's something we have to get fixed in a hurry. In a hurry."
With the game tied 7-7 midway through the first quarter, the Seahawks used big plays and trick plays to get into the end zone to take the lead. Starting from his own 22-yard line, Wilson hooked up with former Viking Sidney Rice for a 23-yard pass to midfield. After a pair of Marshawn Lynch runs picked up another first down, a gadget play got the Seahawks deep into Vikings territory. Wilson threw a lateral to Rice, who launched a 25-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller for a first down at the Vikings 12-yard line. With the defense forced to make a stand, facing a third-and-9 play, Wilson found Rice in the end zone, capping a nine-play, 78-yard drive that gave Seattle a 14-7 lead.
After the Vikings rallied to score on their next two possessions to take a 17-14 lead, it was another long, grueling drive that gave the Seahawks the lead to stay. Lynch was the man early, carrying three times to move the chains and, when faced with a third-and-4 from their own 36-yard line, Wilson fired a seven-yard dart to Rice for another first down. Inside the final two minutes of the half, head coach Pete Carroll was faced with a huge decision at midfield. The Vikings made a third-down stop, setting up a fourth-and-1 from the Vikings 48-yard line. Carroll went for the first down and Wilson converted with a 1-yard sneak to keep the drive alive. After a 22-yard pass to Miller got Seattle deep into Minnesota territory, Wilson put up another crooked number with an 11-yard pass to Golden Tate to cap off a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ate up almost five minutes to give the Seahawks a 20-17 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, both teams exchanged punts in the first 4½ minutes, leaving Seattle with the ball on its own 28-yard line with 10:24 to play in the quarter. The Seahawks picked the Vikings apart with a screen pass to Tate for 13 and eight yards, an old-school option run by Wilson for eight more and a third-and-5 pass of six yards to Tate to get Seattle into scoring position. After Lynch broke off a 23-yard run, they kept the ball on the ground and Lynch finished the deal, closing out a nine-play, 72-yard drive that ate 6:15 off the clock to give the Seahawks a 27-17 lead.
It seemed only fitting that the game would end in a déjà vu type fashion that had been repeating itself throughout the game. Following an interception of Christian Ponder that set up the Seahawks on their own 47-yard line, they kept the ball on the ground and pounded it at the Vikings defense – converting a first down with a 12-yard run by rookie RB Robert Turbin, a fourth-and-1 conversion by Wilson and five straight runs by Lynch. When Seattle finally went to the air, on an innocent 6-yard flip from Wilson to Robinson, the Vikings were out of timeouts and all Seattle had to do was take a knee to end the game – closing out the Vikings with an 11-play drive that would have been even longer had the clock not run out. Seattle successfully killed off the final 5:27 of the game clock, which included the clock stopping four times – three Vikings timeouts and the two-minute warning.
Lynch finished with 124 yards on 26 carries.
"For them to run for that many yards, I've got to take a look at it and see what we're doing and how we're doing it. I didn't expect that," Frazier said.
The Vikings had enough big plays to stay in the game, thanks almost solely to Adrian Peterson, but it was the ability of the Seahawks to pick apart the Vikings defense, control the clock and keep A.P. from doing any more damage that created an exhausting and long-lasting turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Turning point: 'D' allowed extensive drives
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