Steve Hutchinson tried to downplay his return to Seattle before the game, declining many Seattle interview requests and telling local reports last Monday that he was just one of 53 players on the Vikings and this game was just one of 16 regular-season contest. But Hutchinson helped spur the Vikings' best performance of 2006 in a tough environment. Get that capsule and 42 gameday notes.
For much of the last week, Steve Hutchinson
tried to downplay the importance of his return to Seattle for the first time since the phrase "poison pill" became commonplace in the lexicon of Vikings fans.
But it was clear that it was important and that the Vikings planned on making Seattle regret allowing him to leave. The result became painfully obvious. Hutchinson was part of an offensive line that led the Vikings to 175 yards rushing on 30 carries and, when the team needed it most, it was running to the left side that provided necessary yards.
With the Vikings trailing 10-3 in the second quarter and pinned on their own 16-yard line, head coach Brad Childress decided to cash in on his investment on the left side of the offensive line. In that drive, Chester Taylor
ran four times – each time to the left – gaining 1, 4, 6 and 7 yards on those carries. With the Seahawks defense forced to respect the run – even on third-down situations – it opened the possibilities to the long ball, as Brad Johnson
connected with Marcus Robinson
for a 40-yard touchdown that tied the game and would prove to erase the Vikings' last deficit of the game.
Fast forward to the third quarter. Now leading 17-10, the Vikings were pinned back on their own 5-yard line. Chester Taylor took a handoff to his left, but the play was bottled up. Both Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie
held their blocks and held their ground. Taylor bounced the run outside and, finding a seam after stringing the play sideways, took off for a 95-yard touchdown run that gave the Vikings a 24-10 lead.
One of the players to run all the way down the field to congratulate Taylor? Hutchinson.
So this game wasn't any more important than any other game for Hutch? Yeah, right.
Taylor's touchdown run shattered the old record of 85 yards set by Michael Bennett against Tampa Bay Nov. 3, 2002 and was just the third rush of 80 yards or more in franchise history.
Perhaps even more impressive is that Taylor's TD became the longest play from scrimmage in team history as well, breaking the old record of 89 yards on a pass from Fran Tarkenton to Charley Ferguson vs. Chicago on Nov. 11, 1962. When you start erasing records that Tark held from his first run with the Vikings, you know that you were seeing something special.
Taylor's 169 yards rushing set a career high. His previous high-water mark was 139 yards, set against the Bengals as a member of the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 5, 2004.
In the Vikings' four wins, Taylor has averaged 27 carries for 123 rushing yards a game. In their two losses, he has averaged just 15 carries for 49 yards.
The Vikings now have six touchdown passes in six games, but two of them from non-quarterbacks. Earlier this year against Carolina, kicker Ryan Longwell threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Owens. Sunday, running back Mewelde Moore threw his first career pass – a 15-yard touchdown to tight end Jermaine Wiggins.
The Vikings outgained Seattle 332-290, with most of Seattle's yardage following a first-quarter barrage coming in the final minutes when they were forced to pass. The Vikings had 175 yards rushing on 30 carries, while limiting the Seahawks to just 53 yards on 21 rushing attempts.
The Vikings won the time of possession battle 32:19 to 27:41.
The Vikings didn't have any turnovers, while the Seahawks had three – including a pair of interceptions from backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.
Brad Johnson was his usual workmanlike self, completing 15 of 24 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, the Seahawks quarterbacks combined to complete 21 of 42 passes for 261 yards with one TD and two interceptions.
With the Seahawks already missing Shaun Alexander, Maurice Morris was hoped to be able to stem the tide. He had a Seattle season-long run of 27 yards, but on his other 16 carries on the day, he managed just 22 yards.
The Vikings held Morris under 100 yards, marking the 18th straight game in which they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher. The last player to do it was Warrick Dunn of the Falcons, who had 126 yards Oct. 2, 2005 in a 30-10 blowout win over the Vikings.
Nine different Vikings caught passes Sunday, led by Marcus Robinson, who had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
If there was a downside to the team's performance, it was that it continues to struggle offensively on third downs. The Vikings converted just five of 14 third-down chances, but the Vikings defense held Seattle to converting just six of 16 opportunities.
The Vikings came into the game as the most penalized team in the league, but both teams had five penalties, which should be viewed as a step in the right direction.
The punting battle was an unsung competition that saw both kickers do exceptionally well. Despite having to punt once from inside the Seattle 40-yard line, Chris Kluwe averaged 40.8 yards and on five punts. Of those kicks, he boomed four of them high enough that they had to be fair-caught and the one that was returned just three yards. On the other side, Ryan Plackemeier had six kicks that averaged 51.2 yards, with one punt that bounced out on the 5-yard line and a 59-yarder that came within a foot or two of going out on the 1-yard line.
The game was sweet revenge for Kluwe, who was released by the Seahawks at the end of training camp last year and, based on what the Vikings had seen in a 2005 preseason matchup with Seattle, was able to get the Vikings to sign him and release short-kicking veteran Darren Bennett.
Former Viking Nate Burleson didn't have a catch Sunday.
Darrell Jackson was a thorn in the Vikings' side, accounting for more than half of Seattle's passing yards – catching seven passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.
E.J. Henderson led the Vikings with nine tackles. For the Seahawks, linebacker Julian Peterson had 12 tackles and two sacks, and safety Ken Hamlin had nine tackles – seven of those solo tackles.
The Vikings are 14-4 coming out of bye weeks since it was instituted by the league. That ties Denver for the best winning percentage (.778) of any team in the NFL.
The Vikings may have caught a break had the Seahawks been able to mount a late challenge with 13 minutes to play. Johnson dropped to pass and had his arm hit. It clearly looked as though Johnson's arm was moving forward and, had Seattle recovered what was ruled a fumble, the Vikings surely would have challenged and almost assuredly won the challenge. Instead, Marcus Johnson recovered the fumble, which was ruled a live ball, and the Vikings were able to milk 40 seconds off the clock before having to punt.
Thanks to the record-setting run by Taylor, the Vikings ran for 107 yards in the third quarter alone – as opposed to just 6 rushing yards for the Seahawks in four possessions.
The rushing touchdown by Taylor was the first rushing TD for the Vikings since the first quarter of the regular season opener vs. the Redskins – a span of 21 quarters between rushing touchdowns.
Longwell missed a 46-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter – his first miss inside of 50 yards this season.
Bethel Johnson provided the Vikings with a big spark – returning four kickoffs for a 31-yard average and making a contribution to the offense with a 4-yard reverse.
Darrion Scott has 3.5 sacks this season. In all of 2005, he had four sacks.
The injury to Matt Hasselbeck's knee didn't appear to be a dirty play. Henderson was locked up with fullback Mack Strong when Hasselbeck was hurt on the first drive of the second half. While Hasselbeck had released the ball, Strong pushed Henderson, who rolled up Hasselbeck (an injury that was initially reported as a strained medial collateral ligament) with the middle of his body.
The Vikings finished the first half trailing in most of the statistical categories. Seattle had 162 total yards (117 passing, 45 rushing) to 145 (89 passing, 56 rushing) for the Vikings.
Brad Johnson finished the first half completing 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, while Taylor led the rushing attack with 13 carries for 52 yards and Marcus Robinson led the receivers with two catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. For Seattle, Hasselbeck completed seven of 15 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown, while Morris ran nine times for 42 yards and Jackson caught three passes for 94 yards.
The Vikings dominated the second quarter, although they only outscored the Seahawks 7-3 in the quarter. The Vikings had the ball for 10:24 of the second quarter – a quarter in which Johnson completed eight of 10 passes for 85 yards, while Hasselbeck completed just one of six passes for nine yards.
Julian Peterson had both of his sacks in the game during the Vikings' final drive of the first half, killing any chance of the Vikings taking a lead into the locker room.
With just six seconds left in the first half, a mistake by wide receiver Billy McMullen may have cost the Vikings a chance to score. With time running down on the play clock following an incompletion, McMullen lined up on the wrong side of the field and had to run across the field – which didn't leave enough time for Johnson to beat the play clock. He had to burn his final timeout. As a result, a 20-yard pass over the middle was impossible and it may have led to Johnson being sacked by Peterson as he prepared to heave a deep Hail Mary pass.
Johnson has just four touchdown passes this year, but three of them have come to Robinson – who caught a 40-yarder in the second quarter to tie the game at 10-10.
Coming into the game, the Vikings had made good on five of six fourth-down conversion attempts. The team failed on its only attempt Sunday, a questionable fourth-and-7 pass play from the Seattle 38. Later in the game, the Vikings would punt from an almost identical position from the Seattle 33-yard line.
The Vikings may have been their own worst enemy in winning a challenge in the second quarter. On the previous play, tight end Jerramy Stevens, playing in his first game since Super Bowl XL, was ruled to have made a 3-yard reception that came up short of a first down and forced Seattle to attempt a field goal. Kicker Josh Brown began to kick as the red challenge flag was thrown and hooked the kick wide left. Given a second chance because the challenge was upheld, he attempted a kick 3 yards further back and clearly moved his sight line farther to the right and hit the kick right down the middle for three points.
The Vikings were outperformed in the first quarter. Johnson was just 2 of 6 passing for 29 yards, while Taylor had seven carries for 28 yards. On the other side, Hasselbeck completed 6 of 9 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, Morris had six carries for 37 yards and Jackson had two catches for 85 yards and a TD.
In the first quarter, the Vikings ran 13 plays for just 51 yards, while Seattle ran 16 plays for 155 yards.
In the first quarter, Seattle made good on three third-down plays of 7 yards or longer, including the touchdown to Jackson.
Troy Williamson suffered what was initially diagnosed as a concussion in the first quarter. He was hit hard on a deep pass by Hamlin and lay motionless for several seconds before finally regaining his senses and being attended to by the Vikings medical staff.
Seattle's only touchdown came on an audible from Hasselbeck. With the Vikings showing blitz, he changed the call, which left Jackson locked into single coverage with Ronyell Whitaker. Jackson got the inside route from the slot and, after a pass of less than 10 yards, found a seam in the Vikings defense and was gone for a 72-yard scoring play.
The Vikings came into the game as the only team that had scored on the first possession of each of its games this season. They added to that total with a field goal on their first drive, giving them five field goals and one touchdown in six game-opening drives.
The Vikings have won the opening toss in five of six regular-season games and, dating back to the preseason, have won the toss to start a game in eight of 10 contests.