The Minnesota Vikings will be welcoming home one of their own Sunday when head coach Pete Carroll brings his Seattle Seahawks to town to face the Vikings in the wild card playoffs Sunday. Carroll, a former assistant coach with the Vikings, has his Seahawks looking to make a third straight Super Bowl appearance and, like the Vikings, his team is getting healthy at the right time.
Following a 2-4 start to the season that had analysts claiming their dynasty was over, Seattle finished 8-2, capping its regular season with a dismantling of division champ Arizona. With his team returning several key players on both sides of the ball, Carroll’s team is on a roll at the right time.
“We’ve been on a pretty good run of improving our football, cleaning things up and becoming more efficient as an offense and defense,” Carroll said. “Other than the game we had with the Rams, which was kind of an outlier, we’ve moving toward getting to our best play.”
As Carroll has done film study on the Vikings, what he sees in Mike Zimmer’s team is very similar to what he has built in Seattle. Like the Seahawks, the Vikings have been driven by defense and keeping opponents from putting points on the board with any regularity.
“They’ve been really consistent all year,” Carroll said. “They’ve kept points down all season long. I think Mike does a great job playing base defense and he’s got a great nickel package for pressure to making things difficult on you. That’s nothing new. He’s been doing that for a long time. He’s a great ball coach.”
One of the biggest differences there will be in the Seahawks on Sunday is the anticipated return of running back Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode has missed the last seven games after having abdominal surgery, but the timing of his return couldn’t be more opportune for the Seahawks.
While Carroll wouldn’t guarantee Lynch starts Sunday, he did practice in full Wednesday and Carroll liked what he saw.
“He had a really good day today,” Carroll said on Wednesday. “He looked just like how we remembered him and how he practices. He made it through the walk-through and all that stuff. We’ll see how he is (Thursday) and we’ll just do one day at a time and we’ll see if that add to enough of a buildup where he can play in the game.”
In many ways, Carroll sees a similar path being taken by the Vikings as to what he built in Seattle. He and Zimmer have similar philosophies and, at a time when some flavor-of-the-month schemes are being incorporated into the game, both he and Zimmer have found success using an old-school style to get things done.
“Because there is such a similarity in the formula that we both had as defensive guys, former coordinators, we’ve been successful at putting out this formula – playing defense, special teams and the running game,” Carroll said. “They’re doing the same thing. Not everybody realizes how valuable it is to have a formula that is steeped in the traditional way to play our game.”
Carroll doesn’t expect the type of game he witnessed when Seattle dismantled the Vikings 38-7 last month. He noted that the game got away from the Vikings early and forced them away from what they typically do as an offense and defense.
When he watches the Vikings, in many ways it is like looking into a mirror. He sees so many things that are nearly identical that he expects Sunday’s game to be one of similar game plans and styles. It will simply be a matter of who executes their game plan better than the other.
“You’re going to see two teams that really have a similar way of going about the game,” Carroll said. “We believe in base defense. They believe in base defense. We believe in the running game. They believe in the running game. We both believe in having a clean special-teams style. We’re very similar. I do so similarities and I hope you’ll have a great run staying with it.”