PASSING OFFENSE: C — Randy Moss never should have thrown the ball into double coverage off of a reverse option with 2:16 left in the game and the Vikings in a first-down situation at the Seahawks 20. Then again, the play never should have been called. Yes, in an ideal world, Moss steps out of bounds rather than forcing the ball. But Moss isn't a quarterback. Let Daunte Culpepper and his 70-percent completion ability handle the tough passing decisions late in the game. Otherwise, the Vikings' passing offense was sufficient. Moss looked nearly 100 percent, catching four passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, by far his best game since straining his right hamstring Oct. 17 at New Orleans.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Onterrio Smith had nine carries for 53 yards and a touchdown in the first two series of the game. Then he carried the ball five times for three yards the rest of the game. Michael Bennett was finally a part of the offense again. He had five carries for 25 yards, including an 11-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Bennett's entry into the game, however, stifled the offense. He gained 3 yards on the first two plays of his first series as the Vikings went three-and-out. The Vikings got away from the running game too early, but it wasn't as bad as the week before against Chicago.
PASS DEFENSE: D — Once again, the Vikings were clueless until making some adjustments at halftime. They started the game with zone coverages as a way to cover up for the absence of their second-best player, cornerback Antoine Winfield (sprained left ankle). It didn't work. Three blown coverages resulted in two touchdown passes and a 36-yard completion that set up another touchdown pass. MLB E.J. Henderson blew two coverages: the 36-yarder to TE Ryan Hannam and the 35-yard touchdown to receiver Bobby Engram. The Vikings went to more man coverage in the second half and held Seattle to two field goals. However, when the Vikings desperately needed the ball back late in the game, dime back Derek Ross gave up a 37-yard completion to Darrell Jackson while in man coverage on third-and-eight. The Vikings did have two interceptions — by safety Brian Russell and cornerback Brian Williams — that led to 10 points.
RUSH DEFENSE: C — Considering how talented RB Shaun Alexander is, the Vikings shouldn't be ashamed that he ran for 112 yards on 27 carries (4.1). The Vikings held Seattle to 38 yards rushing in the first half. Of course, a cynic would say the Seahawks didn't run the ball because they were too busy passing it to wide-open receivers. Seattle rushed for 100 yards in the second half.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — It figures that with the offense and defense struggling that the Vikings' special teams would play their best game of the season. P Darren Bennett averaged 45.5 yards on four punts. Nate Burleson, who broke his nose in the game, had an 18-yard punt return. KR Mewelde Moore returned after a five-week absence because of a sprained ankle and had one kickoff return for 30 yards. The only negative was a 34-yard kickoff return by Seattle's Maurice Morris.
COACHING: D — The offense started fast and finished with two turnovers in the final seven minutes, including one off of an ill-advised play call by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. The defense started slowly — again — and finished well after defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell abandoned some zone coverages that were doomed from the start without Winfield in the game. Coach Mike Tice has insisted this year's slump isn't the same as last year's collapse. He's right. It's worse. The Vikings are 2-5 since starting 5-1. They were 3-7 after last year's 6-0 start, but during that 10-game slide the Vikings hammered Seattle 34-7 at the Metrodome. Yes, the Vikings have their share of injuries. But the mistakes and mental errors keep showing up week after week as the losses mount.
Grading The Game: Seahawks
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