‘Wow! He did that?’
The Minnesota Vikings had all of the momentum heading into the fourth quarter with a 9-0 lead, but Russell Wilson’s improvisational skills made all the difference in a 10-9 loss in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Early in the fourth quarter, Wilson ran backwards to retrieve an errant snap, got outside of Captain Munnerlyn’s contain and found a wide open Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard gain down to the 4-yard line. The Seahawks scored their only touchdown of the game on that possession.
“We came with the right pressure, came off the edge and he’s on one knee. I’m coming right at him. I don’t know whether to hit him or what,” Munnerlyn said. “He got the ball up and ran out the pocket and (threw a) completion downfield. It’s one of those plays you’re like, ‘Wow! He did that?’ He made a great play.”
In the first half, Wilson had only two rushes for 13 yards, one of them a read option play that sucked Everson Griffen on the running back and Wilson turned the corner for an 11-yard run.
“You’ve got to be disciplined. I’ll say him and (Aaron) Rodgers are the two guys that are great at – they’ll see guys from their blind side, they’ll just know they’re coming and they’ll duck out at the last second and cause you to miss,” safety Harrison Smith said of Wilson last week. “They just have that in them and they can make some pretty spectacular plays and it’s a lot harder to get them than you think.”
That turned out to be a prophetic answer five days in advance of the Vikings’ loss.
Seattle was held scoreless in the first half of a game for the first time the entire season, but Wilson’s improvisational skills led to Seattle’s only touchdown of the game.
“That’s just ball players making plays. They practice, too, they get paid as well and they have some great athletes on that side,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “Things like that are going to happen, scramble around, make a crazy play. That was the biggest play they had all day and that was their biggest play by far. If we can hold them to one play like that, then we’re going to win every time, but this is the time we don’t win I guess.”
Walsh takes ownership
With the game on the line and a “chip-shot” field-goal attempt, Blair Walsh pushed a 27-yard field attempt wide left that would have given the Vikings a 12-10 lead with 22 seconds left in the game after hitting from 47, 43 and 22 yards throughout the game.
Walsh struggled in the preseason but had turned his season around, hitting on 34 of 39 attempts in the regular season, including 9-for-9 on attempts les than 30 yards. For his career, he had only missed one inside of 30 yards once, going 30 of 31 before his agonizing miss on Sunday.
This time, his game-winning attempt was wide left with the laces on his kicking foot at contact.
“It didn’t feel good off my foot and I kind of knew right away,” Walsh said. “It is just ridiculous and you have to do much better than that and I didn’t.”
Holder Jeff Locke said he knew the laces were in but said with the weather conditions he isn’t supposed to spin the ball for fear that it would slip out of the hold.
Teammates universally supported Walsh with their comments, and Walsh broke down with tears streaming down his face after addressing the media and owning the miss.
“Without his kicks we aren’t in that football game,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “As a veteran leader, he’s a huge part of this football team. We appreciate everything he does. Nobody in the building, nobody in the world wanted to make that kick more than Blair Walsh.”
Forgotten fumble? Not for A.P.
Walsh’s missed field goal will be remembered, but Adrian Peterson’s fumble after picking up a first down on an 8-yard reception led to the Seattle taking a 10-9 lead.
Peterson caught a short pass from Teddy Bridgewater and picked up 8 yards and a first down before safety Kam Chancellor ripped the ball out of Peterson’s grasp. The Seahawks recovered on the Vikings 40-yard line. They picked up one first down before Steven Hauschka kicked what would remain the game-winning points on a 47-yard field goal.
“It was tough. To have the first down, and my mentality is to try to scratch for extra yards, that was one of those times when I should have double-arm wrapped it,” Peterson said. “After that it was just praying that the defense would give us another opportunity, and they gave us another opportunity. I look back on that and say if I don’t put that ball on the ground, they’re not able to get that field goal and take the lead. That’s something that will haunt me throughout this offseason.”
Teddy on target
With a running game that was largely shut down – Peterson averaged less than 2 yards per carry in the first three quarters and had 27 yards on 16 carries midway through the third quarter – Teddy Bridgewater was on point, even if he wasn’t explosive in the coldest game in Vikings history.
“It wasn’t really a factor at all,” Bridgewater said of the game that kicked off with a temperature of minus-6 degrees. “We were warm for the most part, especially on the sideline with the heated benches and everything. Then you go out there on the field and it’s all a mental thing. It didn’t affect us at all.”
Bridgewater connected on 17 of 24 passes for 146 yards. He took three sacks, didn’t throw a touchdown but didn’t throw an interception either. His 24-yard completion to Kyle Rudolph with one minute, 26 seconds left in the game put the Vikings in field goal position and it was the longest play of the day for the Vikings.
Peterson finished the game with 45 yards on 23 carries.
Surviving the freeze
Sunday’s game was the all-time coldest in Vikings history. The previous record was minus-2 at Met Stadium on Dec. 3, 1972, when the Vikings hosted the Bears.
The official temp for Sunday’s game was minus-6 at kickoff with the wind chill minus-23 and wind at 12 MPH.
Numerous players on each team were without sleeves during pregame warmups.
“I don’t really care. It’s kind of fun having the outdoor game at home in Minnesota,” Smith said last week. “I think the cold is kind if fitting.”
Here were the top-10 coldest games in NFL history before the Vikings tied for third:
- 1 – minus-13, wind chill minus-48. Dec. 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field: Cowboys at Packers
- 2 – minus-9, wind chill minus-59. Jan. 10, 1982 at Riverfront Stadium: Chargers at Bengals
- 3 – minus-6. Jan. 7, 1996 at Arrowhead Stadium: Chiefs at Colts
- 4 – minus-5. Jan. 4, 1981 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium: Raiders at Browns
- 5 – minus-4, wind chill minus-24. Jan. 20, 2008 at Lambeau Field: Giants at Packers
- 6 – minus-2, wind chill minus-26. Dec. 3, 1972 at Met Stadium: Bears at Vikings
- 7 – 0 degrees, wind chill minus-18. Dec. 10, 1972 at Met Stadium: Packers at Vikings
- 8 – 0 degrees. Dec. 26, 1993 at Lambeau Field: Raiders at Packers
- 9 – 0 degrees, wind chill minus-32. Jan. 15, 1994 at Ralph Wilson Stadium: Raiders at Bills
- 10 – 2 degrees. Dec. 22, 1990 at Lambeau Field: Packers vs. Lions
The Seahawks made running back Marshawn Lynch inactive because he hadn’t recovered enough from his abdominal surgery two months ago. Instead, Christine Michael was the “next man up” and he ended with 70 yards on 21 carries.
Perhaps no aspect of the game was affected by the weather as much as punting. Between the two teams, they punted five times with the longest one going 36 yards in the first half.
Seattle’s Jon Ryan averaged 35.4 yards on five punts and Locke averaged 34.4 yards on five attempts. Ryan had a long punt of 41 yards and Locke’s long was 47 yards.
The Vikings had nine penalties for 95 yards in the first meeting between these two teams. In the first half of this game, they cut that to one penalty, but it was a large one. On Seattle’s final drive with the Seahawks facing third-and-5, Wilson lofted a pass deep down the left sideline for Doug Baldwin. Xavier Rhodes never looked back and ran over Baldwin for a 41-yard pass interference penalty. The Seahawks weren’t able to take advantage, but the additional yardage kept the Vikings from likely getting the ball at midfield with about a 1:30 to play in the first half. Instead, after the Seahawks punted, the Vikings kneeled on the ball at their own 9-yard line to end the first half with a 3-0 lead.
The Vikings finished the game with two penalties for 46 yards. Seattle had six penalties for 65 yards.