There weren’t many people outside of the Minnesota Vikings locker room that were convinced that they could beat the Seattle Seahawks. But, with the game in their hands inside the 10-yard line, the Vikings missed the likely game-winning field goal after an Adrian Peterson fumble led to the Seahawks scoring what turned out to be the game-winning points.
In the process, what was lost was a dominating performance by the Vikings defense. In the first meeting between the teams in December, the Seahawks dominated the Vikings. No team all year scored more than two touchdowns against Minnesota. Seattle scored five and rolled up 400 yards.
On Sunday, the Vikings kept Seattle in check and shut them out for three quarters. While Blair Walsh’s miss and Peterson’s fumble will be what is likely remembered most about the loss, Brian Robison said he was more than pleased with how the Vikings defense executed in brutal sub-zero conditions.
“I’m proud of how smart we were playing Russell Wilson today,” Robison said. “I’m proud of how we played on first and second downs. That is a huge key for success on defense. I’m proud of our coaches. They came up with a great game plan. They worked hard all week. I’m just proud of this team in general. Even though we didn’t come out on top today, it just shows truly what caliber of team we are.”
To flip the script on Wilson was a big part of the game plan coming in. The Vikings knew that if they wanted to beat Seattle, keeping Wilson from having a productive day was a must. Wilson completed just 13 of 26 passes for 142 yards and his biggest play came on a broken play where he improvised on the run.
What made Sunday’s loss more painful was that it carried with it the finality of a playoff loss that will give players like cornerback Captain Munnerlyn an entire offseason to wonder what could have been.
“It definitely hurt because we put a great game plan in,” Munnerlyn said. “We fell a little short and have to see what we can fix and move on from it. We’re going home, so we’re definitely going to have a long time to think about it and see what we can do better.”
Although the sting of Sunday’s loss will linger for some time, the Vikings accomplished much – winning 11 games, taking home the NFC North title and earning a home playoff game.
The anger is there, along with the sadness and disbelief that they lost a game they had controlled throughout and made the requisite plays late to get the ball back and put themselves in position to win.
It may be too early to talk legacy with the Vikings, but Sharrif Floyd believes this is the start of something big.
“All I can say is that we believe in us,” Floyd said. “Let’s see what next year has in store for us. We are fighters, we are warriors and we will continue to be that. We will continue to stay together and stay strong. That is our foundation and that is what we live off of.”
The Vikings’ 2015 season brought Minnesota back to respectability. It was a wild ride for Mike Zimmer’s improved defense and going out the way they did – with a dominant defensive performance that was good enough to win the day – will be a hard pill to swallow for the defensive players who did everything necessary to send the Seahawks home with a loss.
Instead, it’s the Vikings who are heading home and they’re going to need some time to get over that sting.
“No player is ready to go home, that’s for sure,” Robison said. “We knew this was going to be a tough test for us and we wanted to prove them all wrong. Hardly anyone gave us a chance to win this game. By all rights, we should have won. I think that’s the thing that hurts the most. It was a game that we had in hand, but we just didn’t finish it.”
WILD-CARD GAME NOTES
- The official game-time temperature was announced as 6 degrees below zero with a wind chill of 25 below. It was the coldest starting temperature in team history. The previous coldest game was Dec. 3, 1972, when the Vikings played the Chicago Bears at Metropolitan Stadium. That day the game-time temperature was minus-2 with a wind chill of 19 below.
- Peterson moved into third place on the franchise’s all-time postseason rushing list, passing Dave Osborn. Peterson entered play with 367 yards in four games. He passed Osborn, who had 380 yards in 13 games. Now with 412 yards in five games, Peterson still trails Robert Smith (590 yards in nine games) and Chuck Foreman (860 yards in 13 games) on the all-time list.
- The teams only combined for 409 yards of offense – 228 for Seattle, 183 for the Vikings, as they both ran an identical 56 offensive plays.
- Prior to Sunday, the Vikings had won all seven games this season in which Peterson ran 20 or more times. He carried 23 times Sunday for just 45 yards.
- Largely lost in the missed field goal by Blair Walsh was the fourth-quarter fumble by Peterson in his own territory that led to what would become the game-winning points.
- Teddy Bridgewater won the battle of the quarterbacks. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 146 yards and a passer rating of 86.5. Russell Wilson completed 13 of 26 passes for 142 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 63.3.
- Bridgewater held the QB edge in the first half, too. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 68 yards and a passer rating of 81.6. Wilson completed 6 of 11 passes for 39 yards and a passer rating of 62.3.
- The weather had a major impact on the punting game. Of the 10 punts between Jeff Locke and Jon Ryan, they averaged less than 35 yards in the air.
- Thanks to a dominating time of possession in the first quarter, the Vikings held the ball for 32:26 of the game, but Seattle won the time-of-possession battle in each of the last three quarters.
- The defenses dominated on third down. Seattle converted just 5 of 14 third down opportunities, while the Vikings made good on just 3 of 13.
- The Vikings stressed not doing things to kill themselves, including limiting their penalties. They committed only two fouls Sunday.
- Seattle scored a touchdown in its only trip inside the red zone. The Vikings made it in the red zone twice, but came away with just three points.
- Rookie Eric Kendricks led the Vikings with eight tackles in his playoff debut.
- The fourth quarter saw one of the biggest game-changing plays imaginable that looked to be a potential boon for the Vikings, only to become the biggest offensive play of the day. As only Wilson seemingly could do, after falling behind 9-0, he had a shotgun snap sail past him on what looked like it would be a 15-yard loss. Instead, he escaped the oncoming rushers and launched a 35-yard strike to Tyler Lockett that moved the chains to the 4-yard line and would lead to the game’s only touchdown.
- After taking a 6-0 lead, the Vikings had back to back sacks on Wilson, pushing Seattle all the way back to the 7-yard line after Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd corralled Wilson for significant losses.
- On the first drive of the second half, rookie Trae Waynes got an interception on a fourth down play from the Minnesota 40-yard line. Waynes was only on the field because veteran Terence Newman was on the sideline with a calf injury.
- Doug Baldwin made a highlight-film one-handed catch on the first drive of the second half that preserved the drive but ended on the Waynes interception.
- Neither team mustered much offense in the first half. The Vikings outgained Seattle 99-86 in the half.
- In the first half, the teams combined to convert just 3 of 12 third downs – two of seven by the Vikings and 1 of 5 for Seattle.
- Peterson was limited to four carries in the second quarter, but gained 20 yards, giving him 31 yards on 14 carries in the first half.
- The Vikings had a time of possession edge in the first half of 18:30 to 11:30.
- The Vikings kept Seattle off the board in the first half, the first time all season that Seattle hasn’t scored in the first half.
- The Vikings didn’t have a penalty until there was less than two minutes to play in the first half, but it was a big one. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was called for a 41-yard pass interference penalty, but it didn’t come back to bite the Vikings.
- Heading toward the west end zone midway through the second quarter, Seattle went on a fourth-and-13 play from the 30-yard line rather than attempt a 48-yard field goal.
- The first two punts of the game (the ones that got off) went 23 yards (Jeff Locke) and 26 yards (Jon Ryan).
- Seattle had trouble getting personnel on the field in the first half and ran through all three of their timeouts in the half with 12:41 still to play. As a result, with just under 13 minutes left in the half, the Seahawks were forbidden from challenging plays because they didn’t have a timeout to sacrifice if they lost a challenge.
- The Vikings tried to challenge a spot early in the second quarter. Given that there has to be clear visual evidence to overturn a call on the field, it would seem Zimmer threw away a challenge. Even though replay showed that Zimmer may have been right, it wasn’t egregious enough to overturn. However, the fact that it was so close and wasn’t measured fell on the officiating crew.
- In the first quarter, the Vikings outgained Seattle 63-23. Minnesota ran 20 plays, as opposed to just six for the Seahawks. The Vikings held the ball for 12:57 of the quarter.
- Wilson had no yards passing or rushing in the first quarter.
- Bridgewater completed 6 of 9 passes in the first quarter for 50 yards.
- Peterson had just eight carries in their first meeting with Seattle. In the first quarter, he had 10 carries, but gained just 11 yards.
- Of the game’s first 14 minutes, the Seahawks held the ball for 1:02, while the Vikings had drives of eight minutes and almost six minutes.
- The first big break of the game came with Seattle’s only 2015 weakness – special teams. After a three-and-out on the first series, Seattle punter Jon Ryan took a low snap and, convinced it would be blocked, took off running but was caught, giving the Vikings the ball on the Seattle 29-yard line. Turning the ball over on downs eventually led to a 22-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 3-0 lead.
- The Vikings took the ball first and had a long drive that ate up more than seven minutes. It showed the attitude the Vikings have taken on in recent weeks. On a fourth -and-1 from their own 46-yard line, the Vikings went for it and Bridgewater converted with a 2-yard sneak.
- The Vikings and Seahawks are two of the youngest teams in the league, so there is reason to believe both will be formidable for some time to come. The Vikings are second in the league with an average age of the players on the 53-man roster of 26.8 years. Seattle is third with an average age of 26.9 years. Green Bay is the youngest team, with an average age of 26.4 years.
- The ceremonial Gjallarhorn that greets Vikings fans prior to the game shattered due to the cold temperatures. Somehow, the Vikings had a smaller replacement Gjallarhorn available to serve as a replacement. Next horn up.
- The announced attendance was 52,090.
- Vikings Hall of Fame former coach Bud Grant went out for the coin toss wearing short sleeves with the temperature at 6 below zero.